A rendering shows what the future “Sprinkle Kindness” mural will look like at Ray’s Ice Cream in Royal Oak. The official unveiling ceremony will take place during a customer appreciation day July 18.

A rendering shows what the future “Sprinkle Kindness” mural will look like at Ray’s Ice Cream in Royal Oak. The official unveiling ceremony will take place during a customer appreciation day July 18.

Photo provided by the city of Royal Oak

Huge fundraiser saves 63-year-old ice cream business in Royal Oak

July 18 to serve as community appreciation day

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published July 15, 2021


ROYAL OAK — The saying “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream” has a newfound, personal meaning for one longtime Royal Oak ice cream parlor and wholesale supplier.

Tom Stevens, third-generation owner of Ray’s Ice Cream, credits the community with saving the frosty treat staple, which has been serving ice cream since 1958 and was on the verge of closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stevens, whose grandfather was the legendary Ray of Ray’s Ice Cream and who grew up learning the family business, said he was absolutely blown away by the generosity of a crowdfunded initiative through gofundme.com.

“It was amazing. I have used the word ‘humbling’ so much in the last few months,” he said. “We were not going to make it at all. We had road construction up at 14 (Mile Road) and Coolidge (Highway) — they’re still working on the road — and then COVID hit. Half of our business is supplying restaurants and country clubs, and they were shut down.”

He said for a year and a half, business was “brutal.” While customers could still walk up in a limited capacity for ice cream orders, the financial blow overall would have been too much to recover from without the support from the public.

The gofundme.com fundraiser garnered more than 1,800 contributions, raising approximately $78,000 in four days.

Stevens said he had never done a fundraising campaign previously, and that he put the figurative “bat signal” out with the hope of raising $50,000. After hitting the mark in two days, he shut the fundraiser down by the fourth day, as he didn’t want to “look greedy.”

He said he is grateful for all who helped the business to financially weather the storm of the pandemic, and he hopes Ray’s Ice Cream continues on in the family for many more years to come. His daughter, he added, is already helping on the production side.

According to the business’s website, raysicecream.com, Ray’s Ice Cream began in 1958, when it was founded by Raymond and Bernice Stevens and their son, Dale, “as a neighborhood ice cream parlor and soda fountain with a focus on quality products and friendly service.”

The nostalgic ice cream parlor now serves up more than 50 flavors of its signature ice cream.

“I never thought we’d have to (rely on the public for help),” Stevens said. “We are doing a customer appreciation day on July 18.”

The event will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 18. All patrons will score a free serving of Ray’s Ice Cream signature birthday cake ice cream, as well as have a chance to win giveaways.

The event also falls on National Ice Cream Day, and Stevens said gofundme.com is sponsoring a mural on the side of the building featuring a “Sprinkle Kindness” slogan.

On June 28, the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously approved the public art application for the mural, which had been submitted to the Royal Oak Commission for the Arts.

The mural, which includes 55-foot-wide by 18-foot-tall stripes and the 20-foot-wide by 27-foot-tall “Sprinkle Kindness” message, was created by local artist Kelly Golden and is worth $4,000, according to a city memo.

“Customers will be encouraged to take selfies in front of the mural and post/tag to social media #SprinkleKindness to keep the spirit of giving and being kind alive in the community,” the memo states.

Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Paruch, the City Commission representative to the Commission for the Arts, said the pandemic severely impacted the business and she was glad to see the overwhelmingly successful response of the public.

“This is really great. I think it’s just a testament to the community that both collectively and with individuals, we came together to make things happen. We’re grateful for this,” Mayor Michael Fournier said. “We could all do with a little more kindness.”

Ray’s Ice Cream is located at 4233 Coolidge Highway, north of Normandy Road.