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Doyle’s Ice Cream Parlor Just Keeps On Lickin’ In/Around: West Central

Summer only begins for some people when Doyle’s Ice Cream Parlor starts selling its huckleberry ice cream.

For the record, that would have been last weekend, when Jerry Gill dished out this year’s first scoop of a Spokane favorite.

The season should last until early September, Gill said while making batches of huckleberry ice cream.

“The best thing about this place,” said Meredith Ross, “is it’s a little shop where ice cream is the biggest part of its history.”

Ross works downtown as a phone company employee, but she visits Doyle’s, at 2229 W. Boone, once or twice a month in the summer.

“I don’t have children. But if I did, I’d make sure they got ice cream here,” Ross said.

This week marks Gill’s third anniversary as owner.

In 1992 he arranged to lease the building, which had been closed since 1986.

That West Central building dates to 1939 and has been the city’s landmark of homemade ice cream ever since.

Gill, 35, sometimes thinks he was destined to own Doyle’s.

He moved to Spokane at the age of 1 and ended up living two doors down from the business.

He made regular trips there until its third owner, Kenny Olsen, closed it in 1986.

While Gill worked as a supermarket janitor, Doyle’s remained closed for the next five years.

He gave thought to buying the business but was always far short of the $50,000 the owner wanted.

In 1992 his luck turned.

“I was standing in the yard and the owner said, ‘Do you want to lease the store?”’

The lease let Gill open the store and bring in shelves of his toy and knickknack collection.

Within several months, the owner decided to sell the business to him.

The unmarried Gill keeps it open every day but Monday. Last year he tried closing it during the winter.

This year, he’ll add some lunch items and stay open all yearlong.

“Since I had to keep heat on and check on things, I’ve decided to keep it open anyway,” Gill said.

He’s the all-around store manager/ dishwasher/ice cream tester.

“I do just about everything, from making the ice cream to cleaning the floors,” he said.

He doesn’t eat as much ice cream now as he did 30 years ago.

“I’m always around it. It doesn’t taste as good as it used to,” he said.

Gill has no plans to branch out or try to change Doyle’s small-is-beautiful approach.

Last year he added a yard patio for customers. Other changes have been slow and unspectacular.

The thought of opening another Doyle’s - say, somewhere in the Valley - doesn’t appeal to Gill.

“It is such a piece of the neighborhood here,” he said. “People come here because of the nostalgia.

“I’ll be here as long as Doyle’s is around.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo