The Inside Scoop on Sharples Ice Cream

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Sharples ice cream is a cultural institution here at Swarthmore, and like any institution, its history contains a wealth of rumors. Investigating them is a perennial theme here are the Gazette, and so once again, it’s time to clear the air:

No, the ice cream is not endowed. Sharples Front of House Manager Therese Hopson said she has heard the rumor, but “we have yet to receive a monetary donation designated to ice cream.”

Several students report hearing this rumor from tour guides, yet Matthew Goldman ’15, a Head Tour Guide, said emphatically, “I have never been given the impression that Sharples ice cream is endowed, by any other Guides or during the official Tour Guide training I received in Spring 2012.” Speculating on the source of the rumor, he said, “I imagine anyone who does say it has heard it through a grapevine. In our next training session I will be sure to remind folks it is not true and that they should not say it.”

And no, staff does not intentionally put out bad flavors—at least to the extent verifiable. “When ordering ice cream, I try to mix it up each week,” Hopson said, though availability is a factor. “With two deliveries [of 25-30 tubs] a week it’s important to keep stock rotated so that the product is always fresh,” she said.

“Of course, the most popular flavors are used more frequently and the least popular, less frequently.” In her estimation, vanilla is the most popular flavor, and butterscotch vanilla the least.

The ice cream comes from Bassett’s Ice Cream, which has its factory in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Bassett’s delivers about 560 tubs a week to Swarthmore, St. Joseph’s University and other local schools, according to Shantyse Drake, an employee at Bassett’s Wholesale.

Ice cream and frozen yogurt has been at Sharples for a long time. Even Hopson is not entirely sure when it was started. “It’s been here as long as I have, at least 17 years,” she said.

In addition to ice cream, Sharples also serves Tofutti, a newer addition to the ice cream bar, and frozen yogurt. Hopson said, “Not all vendors carry Tofutti in bulk, and if they do, flavors are very limited. Our last vendor stopped carrying it due to lack of sales.”

Photo courtesy of Thomas Ruan.


  1. re: The difficulty of finding vendors of Tofutti–that’s because it sucks. Why on earth won’t vendors carry a brand of non-dairy ice cream that has entered the 21st century and is made with a nut of coconut base, and lacks hydrogenated oils? They’re not just healthier; the texture and flavors are vastly superior. It just doesn’t make sense. As someone who doesn’t eat dairy, having Tofutti is definitely better than nothing, but I don’t understand why these ice cream vendors seem to be stuck in the bad old ’90s.

  2. Tofutti’s not perfect, but having a dairy-free option is essential. As a lactose intolerant ice cream lover, I have to come to its defense.

  3. The least popular flavor is NOT vanilla butterscotch. I think many would love that flavor.

    The worst flavor is CHERRY VANILLA. The bane of our existence and it’s there quite a bit.

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