PISCATAWAY, NJ – For about 20 years Petrucci’s Inside Scoop has been creating and serving frozen treats to ice cream lovers who come back over and over to enjoy not only the traditional flavors such as vanilla and chocolate and assorted sundae combinations, but also to try the specialty soft and hard serve mixes such as cookie dough, cotton candy and ‘strawberry ‘n banana’ that are sometimes available only for limited times. For customers celebrating special occasions, ice cream cakes and pies can be ordered and decorated by the staff.
Located at 474 South Washington Ave in Piscataway, the Metrokotsas family has owned and operated Petrucci’s for the past four years.
“We grew up in Piscataway,” said Eric Metrokotsas, a former engineer who retired from the pharmaceutical industry. “My wife and both of our kids were born and raised in Piscataway and graduated from Piscataway High School. And I went to the local Catholic High School, St. Pius.”
“What’s good is that we’re from town and know a lot of the people who come up here,” he said. “I coached in the little league for almost eight years. So we get the local flair as well.”
Metrokotsas runs Petrucci’s along with his wife, Charlene, and son, Curtis who has a degree in entrepreneurial leadership from Fairleigh Dickinson University. “He is the store manager,” said Metrokotsas. “He’s here five or six days a week and I’m kind of his relief. He is responsible for everything and does a nice job of running the business, managing the employees, and so forth.”
But before Petrucci’s Inside Scoop became an established Piscataway business, “way back when in the 60s and 70s this was a stand-alone building with an ice cream store called the Totem Pole/Dairy Maid,” Metrokotsas explained. “My wife worked there when she was 14.”
The building later burned down and the land was redeveloped into houses and the small strip mall where Petrucci’s, originally part of a franchise system, now operates.
The Metrokotsas family made changes along the way to improve the quality and service offered to their customers. They even considered changing the name of the store when they took over ownership but realized it was a well established name that everyone already knew. “Now we’re four seasons later and it (the business) is completely different,” said Metrokotsas. “But I don’t think people know it’s completely different.”
Petrucci’s serves frozen treats from its walk-up window which is open from the first day of Spring in March through the Thanksgiving season in November.
Ice creams and ices are made in the shop which allows Petrucci’s to offer over 30 flavors that can be changed and mixed according to demand and the season. “Right now we have banana and cotton candy flavors,” Metrokotsas said. “In the fall we make more pumpkin ice cream in three months than we make anything else.”
And they are pet friendly. “We give a free ‘Pup Cup’ for dogs which is a doggie biscuit placed on top of a 3-ounce serving of vanilla soft-serve ice cream,” said Metrokotsas.
Petrucci’s Inside Scoop stays busy, especially during the summer months with crowds peaking after the July 4th holiday. Downtime comes between Thanksgiving and Christmas when the family usually takes a short break before beginning work to upgrade, repair and sanitize the shop’s machinery in January and February. The shop also gets a thorough cleaning, and redecorating includes a fresh coat of paint to keep a bright, modern appearance.
Suppliers consider the business to be a high volume ice cream shop. “We’ve had 400 customers in a day,” said Metrokotsas about when days get really busy. He wants customers to know that “we’re going to serve until the line is done. We’re not shutting the window on anyone.”
The future is bright for Petrucci’s Inside Scoop. While the family would like to open another location, the focus has been on promoting their catering services and product offerings.
They now offer ice cream catering services to local offices, usually during times that don’t conflict with the shop’s busiest times.
“And we’re starting with protein shakes and talking about offering protein ice cream,” he said about their product expansion possibilities.
And Petrucci’s supports the Piscataway community including being a fundraiser for children’s sarcoma.
“There were a couple of boys, both fighting cancer, who were able to fulfill their wishes to tour the shop and design their own flavor of ice cream,” reflected Metrokotsas. “One fought the cancer like a warrior, so he came in here and designed his own “warrior” sundae. Anybody who bought that sundae, we contributed a dollar to children’s cancer.”
Another boy lost an arm to the same type cancer but was able to actually make a batch of his customized ice cream. “I bought him a chef’s hat and an apron,” Metrokotsas recalled. “He was happy to be able to pour in some of the ingredients” when the staff was making the batch of ice cream.
“I wanted to get all choked up because it brought a smile to his face to be able to do this,” he said.
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