Baskin Robbins Through the Years
After more than a half-century in business, Baskin Robbins closed Saturday night after a New Canaan woman put in for a last paid order—a small peanut-butter-and-chocolate milkshake.
Gretchen Russell had entered the Main Street ice cream store with husband Stephen moments before 10 p.m., when beloved longtime owner Anna Valente-Krolikowski locked the door for the final time.
“It’s sad,” said Russell, née Gretchen Meyer, a 1978 New Canaan High School graduate who has patronized Baskin Robbins all her life. “It’s sad to see Anna go. It’s sad to see something we’ve known for so long go. And it’s wonderful for her to have a new chapter in her life.”
The milkshake cost $4.93 with tax.
Friends, family and loyal customers made it a point to visit Baskin Robbins one more time on its final night. A 1987 NCHS graduate known to scores of locals for her generosity, work ethic and warmth toward others, especially those in need, Valente-Krolikowski earlier this month had announced that she planned to retire after 28 years of ownership. Those who stopped by and gathered at the tables and chairs inside the front window included relatives—husband Leon, daughters Morgan and Kelsey (son Ryan worked behind the counter), sister Donna and brother Dom—as well as longtime friends and customers, such as New Canaan’s Susan Boston.
A 1978 NCHS graduate, Boston recalled writing her first-ever check—35 cents for an ice cream cone—to Baskin Robbins more than 40 years ago while working at The Corner House clothing store on Elm Street.
“I’m happy for her,” Boston said. “Any changes in life are not easy, particularly when you have built your life around this. But I’m happy for her, because it’s time. And New Canaan owes a lot to Anna.”
Valente-Krolikowski is known for quietly donating her time and Baskin Robbins ice cream to support community events and causes, in many cases bringing smiles to the faces of those enduring hardship.
The store’s closing is bittersweet for her. Asked how she felt, Valente-Krolikowski choked up, saying she was both sad and excited.
Asked what she would do tomorrow, Valente-Krolikowski said, “Sleep in.” When her daughters, sitting nearby, lightly chided her for that response, Valente-Krolikowski said, “I’ll be here at Baskin Robbins closing up.”
She’s spent nearly every morning for three decades hosing down and scrubbing the sidewalk out front of the store, first on Elm Street and then, since 2002, at 103 Main St. The business has not only fed New Canaanites for decades, but it’s also employed dozens of local teens, often for the first time.
The first flavors that Baskin Robbins ran out of on Saturday were Reese’s Pieces, followed by Oreo and Icing on the Cake. (There was plenty of vanilla in stock.)
New Canaan’s Lisa Novick said she and her family have been customers of Baskin Robbins for about 20 years. She entered the store minutes before it closed with a daughter, Blythe, ordering for themselves as well as husband Steven and daughter Emma—a medium thick black-and-white shake with a scoop of peanut butter and chocolate, two scoops of chocolate peanut butter and Oreo cookie in a cup and Quarterback Crunch with hot fudge.
“She has been a really big part of our family’s lives,” Novick siad. “Lots of celebrations. And I have to say that we were here a lot. It’s sad. I told her it’s as important as having a movie theater, having an ice cream store.”
A magnum of Veuve Clicquot could be seen behind the counter.
Lauren Serena, a 2014 NCHS graduate who now works for Indeed in Stamford, ordered a single scoop of chocolate chip in a sugar cone.
“We’ve been coming here forever,” Serena said. “I love their family. I love this business so much. We’re sad to see them go, but excited for her and everything she is doing.”
She added, “Walking in here I was crying, just because it’s so special. We grew up as kids coming here after every soccer game that we had at Waveny or any big milestone or even just like a Friday night we would come in middle school or high school. So I’m going to miss coming here and seeing everyone’s smiling faces. Anna is amazing, the whole Krolikowski family.”