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The Canalside Cup celebrates 20 years serving up nostalgia along Route 611

Brian Myszkowski
The Canalside Cup celebrated its 20th season with their opening on Monday, April 1, in Williams Township. The classic eatery has become a staple for anyone who appreciates a great burger and soft serve.

WILLIAMS TOWNSHIP, Pa. — It’s been a shaky start to spring, but who can possibly resist a trip to an absolutely quintessential ice cream shop celebrating its 20th anniversary in the Easton area this year?

On Monday, April 1, The Canalside Cup at 1610 S. Delaware Drive (Route 611), just beside the Delaware River, opened to its third decade on the ice cream and fast-food scene in the Lehigh Valley.

In a time when restaurant survival is perilous at best, the little slice of nostalgia has become a hallmark of the spring and summer for many.

Even with a chill in the air, the smell of the grill, the classic tunes in the air and the checkerboard accents across the humble building transport you right back to a summer when sock hops were in vogue.

“For ice cream, I just like a little something when I'm done eating, like a little something sweet. We have a one bite sundae, and that is a little soufflé cup, but it's really more than one bite, it's like five bites."
Deb Kozic, owner, The Canalside Cup

When Deb Kozic stumbled across the business in 2005, she said, she just knew she had to have it — the building was something straight out of the ‘50s, a classic example of a hang-out spot for the local teens, an archetype of Americana.

Kozic’s dream came to fruition quickly: She and her three daughters loved the “retro feel” of the place, and the family would form the core team for the operation, with friends eventually coming along to take up a part time job in the years to come.

Two decades later, Kozic said she feels like she must be doing something right to have become such a standout eatery that is an accessible little indulgence for just about anyone.

“I’ve tried to keep my prices competitive, not real costly, because I'd like to see people come at least once a week instead of once a month,” Kozic said.

Classic eats and creative sweets

According to Kozic, success comes from keeping the classics such as good old-fashioned cheeseburgers and tasty soft serve alongside some fresh ideas, such as spicy beer-battered pub pickles and warm apple pie sundaes.

For its 20th anniversary, The Canalside Cup is tapping its rich, savory, sweet history to highlight some fan favorites.

“What we ended up doing is bringing a couple of things back, and adding some new items.”
Canalside Cup owner Deb Kovic

“What we ended up doing is bringing a couple of things back, and adding some new items,” Kozic said.

She said she and her employees “got carried away” and brought back grilled or crispy chicken wraps, BLT wraps, battered spicy green beans, battered mushrooms, super-sized soft pretzels, funnel cake fries, peanut butter blast ice cream, low-fat black raspberry frozen yogurt and no-sugar-added butter pecan ice cream.

Fans have been anticipating The Canalside Cup’s opening for weeks, especially with Kozic teasing them with social media posts about that menu.

Appetizers such as chili cheese fries and onion rings always are a hit, alongside sweet corn nuggets and battered cauliflower.

Grill top essentials such as cheesesteak, pork roll, hot dogs and more share space with beef and lamb gyros.

'It makes it look old-fashioned'

And those sweet treats are at the top of the list for those hungry folks, especially when it comes to dishes such as the upside-down banana split.

“So what we do is we take a 32-ounce cup, which is a quart, and we layer it just like you would have in a split, but instead of doing it side by side — the chocolate in the middle and vanilla on each side with the fruit top — we layer it," Kovic said.

"It's really more than one bite. It's like five bites.”
Canalside Cup owner Deb Kovic

"We stack it like a tower in the cup. We do our first later as vanilla with pineapple, peanuts, and bananas. And then our second layer would be the chocolate with chocolate syrup, peanuts and bananas.

"The third layer is vanilla with the strawberry, peanuts, and bananas, whipped cream, and a cherry. And we always put a pretzel stick in with our sundaes.”

And those cherries always have to have the stem, Kozic said, as “there’s just something about a cherry with a stem… it makes it look old-fashioned.”

If you’re a first time at The Canalside Cup, Kozic recommends a cheesesteak with a side sampler — which includes a handful of french fries, two pierogies, and four onion rings — and a drink, which comes as a meal deal.

“For ice cream, I just like a little something when I'm done eating, like a little something sweet. We have a one bite sundae, and that is a little soufflé cup, but it's really more than one bite, it's like five bites,” Kozic said with a laugh.

Adding classic hot fudge with a bit of whipped cream, a cherry, and a little pretzel stick “is just the cutest little thing,” she said.

'Basically like family'

After going through chemotherapy treatments and a subsequent operation, Kozic figured a 17-year run was a good run. But in the end, she opted to come back to The Cup, even if it opened just a few weeks later that year.

She said she just can't imagine doing anything else.

"It's like riding a bike, you just pick up where you left off."
Canalside Cup owner Deb Kozic

“It's almost like it's a well-greased machine," Kozic said. "I know I'm so used to doing it, you know what I mean? It's like riding a bike, you just pick up where you left off.

"You know what you have to do two weeks before and then the week before you open and every week now.”

Olivya Strauss has worked at The Canalside Cup for 2 1/2 years, and said she finds the job “exciting,” adding “I like making the ice cream and serving people.”

Adriana Haney said this year marks her third season at the shop. She said she also enjoys the creative element of ice cream making — which can be pretty wild, considering customers can get countless soft serve mixes out of the numerous flavors they have.

“I honestly do really like working here and making different things, and seeing customers’ faces, the little kids' faces especially,” Haney said.

Haney’s twin sister, Brielle, said she values the opportunity to form a strong community among her coworkers and the customers.

“A lot of our customers are repeating customers, so I feel like as soon as they come to the window, we have long conversations with them, and they’re basically like family at this point,” Brielle Haney said.

“So I just feel like our customers basically turned into family and we see them outside of work and it's like we've known them for years.”

'Always looking forward' to it

Kozic said the girls also are a creative force, developing their own daily specials here and there, which tend to be hits with their customers.

Isabella Dayton, who said he has been coming to The Canalside Cup since she was a kid, said she is “always looking forward to [opening day], along with all the locals.”

Dayton picked up a birthday cake milkshake, which she said is her “number one.”

“I come back all the time; I mean, I live right up there.”
Canalside Cup customer Isabella Dayton

“I come back all the time; I mean, I live right up there,” Dayton said, pointing up the street.

“So I just walk here sometimes on the canal path. My sister Arielle, she comes here actually every day of the week during summer.”

The Canalside Cup is open from 11:30 a.m. through 8 p.m., seven days a week. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the shop stays open until 9 p.m.