Kershner’s Ice Cream Parlor was the favorite stopping off place for Reading’s old timers for the better part of 50 years. The business was started initially about 1895 by the late Jonas Sharman. He sold it about eight years later to Andrew Kershner.
A family trip to Reading in that innocent era at the turn of the century was incomplete unless mom, dad and the kids dropped into the two-story building at 17 North 3rd street between Penn and Court.
In its heyday Kershner’s was the favorite stopping off place for baseball fans on their way to and from Lauer’s Park, three blocks away. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons it was not uncommon to see the place so crowded that boys and men stood outside on the sidewalk eating big servings of ice cream.
Few would ever think of shopping in Reading without stopping by the 3rd street ice cream parlor. Perched on sacks of salt, the boys ate with zest their mountain of ice cream, while the girls sat daintily at the graceful tables and chairs to consume their share.
Part of the secret of why old-timers fondly recall gulping delicious nickel a plate ice cream served at Kershner’s Ice Cream Parlor was because it was spiked. Wine and crème-de-menthe blended subtly in the biggest five-cent dip of ice cream in Berks County made the dish one to remember.
When prohibition and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the Pure Food and Drug Act were still dreams in the minds of reformers – the elder Kershner used to flavor his ice cream mildly with tempting alcoholic beverages.
Later laws ended that practice, but Kershner’s remained famous. A nickel bought a heaping amount of ice cream in those days. The elder Kershner devised a new ice cream formula-minus alcohol-in 1910.
Custodian of the secret recipe over all those years was the late Howard H. Boone, who resided at 240 Buttonwood St. When he died, the formula went with him.
The firm’s peak production was in World War I days, when about 100,000 gallons of ice cream were turned out annually.
Refrigeration hurt the business. When out-of-town firms placed electric ice cream cabinets in many neighborhood stores, the days of the ice cream parlor were numbered. Before that, ice and salt had to be used to keep the ice cream from melting in their containers.
The Kershner business was sold to Charles P. Boyer in 1949. Kershner’s lce Cream Parlor closed its doors for the last time on Wednesday, April 18. 1951. The building was sold to the Italian Sons and Daughters of America Home Association Lodge.
The building which used to house the ice cream parlor was one of 58 demolished by the Reading Redevelopment Authority as part of the Court Street Urban Renewal Project. To make way for the Court street project, the lodge relocated to 10th and Walnut streets. The building was demolished in 1962.