The Jolly Cow, a joyous Kingston landmark


The Jolly Cow, a joyous Kingston landmark

I’ve always loved ice cream stands! Who doesn’t? Let’s face it, the little kid in all of us remembers the joys of hot summer days and the treat of a soft ice cream cone that if you didn’t eat it fast enough would turn into a real mess! We’re blessed in Kingston, New York to have a great ice cream stand that’s over 50 years old! I painted it a few years back and that prompted me to want to know more about its history. After a fair bit of research, I found the daughter of the original owner Corrine (Martensen) Planthaber and she shared her story with me.

In 1956, when Corrine was one year old, her parents Ingrid and Carsten Martensen decided to move their family from the Bronx to Kingston, New York and purchased a piece of property that had a home, cabins (like a motor court) and a lunch room. Her folks served lunch to passersby and locals from the community until the day the state came along and said they wanted to widen the road from 2 lanes to 4. This decision cut their lunch room in half!

Her dad (who worked for Eastern Cleaning Company) had always had a dream to run an ice cream stand, so in mid-summer of 1963 they opened The Jolly Cow! Her mother and 16 year old brother, Carsten Martensen initially ran the business. They sold soft-serve ice cream and had two machines for vanilla and chocolate. Corrine remembers that later they added two more flavors: black raspberry and strawberry. What a miracle those soft serve machines were dishing out! In the beginning they also sold deli sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs.

And according to Corrine, they always had the giant ice cream cone sign on the roof of the stand too! Recent owners have spruced it up by adding sprinkles, and this year they’ve changed the color on top to hot pink!

I imagine what fun it would have been growing up owning your own ice cream stand! Corrine said that she started working there when she was 12 – and of course the whole family worked there together. She must have been very popular, I asked? She laughed! Great place to hang out with your friends as a teenager! Especially because the only other ice cream place in town was Mickey’s Igloo way over on East Chester Street!

Her folks owned The Jolly Cow for 20 years before deciding to retire in 1983. There have been a number of owners since then: Christa Bolter and Bill Hutter, Christine La Valle and her husband Vincent La Valle, Dave La Valle and Larry Sarcasano. And just two years ago, the reins were handed over to John Stowell who has carefully restored the place and is still serving that wonderful delicious soft ice cream we all love.

This is a heartwarming story of how a legendary roadside business has stayed alive for over 50 years. People who care! And a product everyone loves!

Many thanks to Corrine for sharing her memories!

  • Maria Maberto
    Posted at 02:18h, 18 March Reply

    My great-aunt’s family home was across the highway from the Jolly Cow. I came along in 1965 and started enjoying their soft serve ice cream in the early 70’s during summers spent with my aunt. There was nothing much around. Just a couple homes and this wonderful stand. The ice cream was amazing. I’m so glad it’s still around. Before I leave this earth, I will return to indulge in some new flavors. I just wish I could find some photos of the JC from the early days.

    • Mary Anne Erickson
      Posted at 15:27h, 18 March Reply

      Hello Maria,
      That’s so cool! I wish you could find some pics too – if you do – please send them along – it would be fun to add them to the post! In the meantime, I’m going to be showing this painting for the next three weeks at Wired Gallery in High Falls, NY if you happen to be in the area. All the best, Mary Anne

  • Andrew LaValle
    Posted at 22:39h, 28 April Reply

    Overall nice article but a few inaccuracies.. The Jolly Cow has an incredibly important part in many families hearts. It was wonderful to serve so many families during the time my family owned this historic Kingston icon. I have many fond memories of talking To Mrs and Mrs. Martensen, Corrine and Father Chris.

    • Mary Anne Erickson
      Posted at 09:55h, 29 April Reply

      Hello Andrew and thank you for chiming in! I would be more than happy to clean up anything that is not correct. Can you please let me know and I’ll go back and change it. I based my information on what Corrine told me. Still love stopping into the Jolly Cow and it’s always a hopeful sign when they reopen in the springtime. Thank you.
      Mary Anne

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