At lunch today, I stopped by Cold Stone Creamery. It was my first time in the famed ice cream spot since May 12, 2013. I bet you’re wondering what’s up with a random date like May 12, 2013. That was the day that my terminal leave from the Air Force started and the date that I escaped South Korea. Before catching the A’REX out to Incheon International Airport, I stopped at the Cold Stone in Seoul Station to celebrate a little bit. Today, I found myself in Cold Stone for the first time since that day and I tried to order what I always ordered there. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any peaches. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the Cold Stone Sundays.
How I first came across this moment? Cold Stone Sundays actually first started as Thursday get-togethers at Baskin Robbins. It was in February 2008, shortly after I returned from deployment. After Bible study at Faith Christian Fellowship of Japan, a couple of my friends and I from my early Tokyo days would venture out of the Yokota East Gate into Musashimurayama to Diamond City—an American-style shopping mall now known as Aeon Mall. We’d start on the first floor with a light dinner at Kuni Steakhouse and topped it off with dessert upstairs from the Baskin Robbins. On one particular Thursday in late March, the line for Baskin Robbins was out of control so one of my friends suggested we go to Cold Stone, which was on the first floor. I had never heard of Cold Stone but when I first tried it, I knew my Baskin Robbins days were over. From that point forward, it was all Cold Stone. One of my friends left for a military assignment in Portugal and she was replaced by another guy, whom turned out to be one of my closest friends. You may recognize him from this Flashback Friday moment. Because all 3 of us sometimes had scheduling conflicts, we shifted from Thursday evenings to Sunday afternoons. So after church, we rolled out to Diamond City and did the Cold Stone thing. I always ordered the same thing: the Island Life combination, Gotta Have It size, in a waffle bowl with a couple of mix-ins. The Island Life ice cream combination broke down as follows: sweet cream ice cream, peaches, bananas, and pineapples. I added graham pie crust and cinnamon to give it a unique taste. My friends always made a big deal of me getting those Gotta Have It sizes, often stating that I was “greedy” but I actually just wanted the Japanese workers to sing.
What it meant to me then? Back then, it was all fun. 3 young, African-American Christians living in a foreign country just trying to have fun and blend in with the locals. Our Cold Stone Sundays were legendary. The Cold Stone workers always had fun when we showed up on the scene. Even other patrons had fun. Little kids wanted to sit next to us. People wanted to take our picture. People even wanted to be in our videos…as you can see from the footage above. For that 15-20 minutes we spent in Cold Stone, it felt as if we were rock stars. The love we got wasn’t just at the Cold Stone in Diamond City. We got just as much love and had just as much fun when we took over the Cold Stone in Roppongi Hills later that year. Outside of the fun and fellowship element, the introduction to Cold Stone was one of the first signs that I was upgrading in my life. Up until that point, I was devoted to Baskin Robbins: it was cheap and it was good. Cold Stone, though slightly more expensive, was better and that’s when I really started getting into choosing better quality over better bargain. You could almost say that’s where my reputation of buying top quality started.
What it means to me now? Looking back on it, those were great days. The fun we had in that store with the workers as well as the other customers…that was us reaching the local community. Ironically, our pastor revealed his vision of our church reaching the 127 million residents in Japan around that time. What we were doing on those Sunday afternoons was just that…and we probably didn’t recognize it. Aside from the fun we had and the people we brought happiness to for a few moments, those Cold Stone Sundays are all I have left of a really good ice cream combination. Apparently, the Japan stores are the only ones in the entire world that had peaches…or the Island Life combination, for that matter. They didn’t even have peaches when I stopped through Cold Stone in Atlanta’s Atlantic Station in the Summer of 2009…mind you, Georgia is the Peach State. I always had to settle for the combination without the peaches outside of Japan and the taste was completely different. On that visit last year, I did something different: I brought my own peaches from the Storyway convenience store at Seoul Station. Though me and my friends have all moved on from our Tokyo days and the Island Life combination is actually no longer among those offered in Japan, every time I’m there, I stop through and piece together the combination. You’ll never find me eating the Founder’s Favorite or The Pie Who Loved Me combinations.