Wilmington dubs street corner in honor of longtime ice cream shop owners

Business owners Bennie and Esther Broomer were honored with a street-naming ceremony. (Zoe Read/WHYY)

Business owners Bennie and Esther Broomer were honored with a street-naming ceremony. (Zoe Read/WHYY)

Bennie Broomer has served customers at his store at the corner of Church and Eighth streets in Wilmington every day for 38 years.

The 80-year-old and his wife, Esther—affectionately known as “Mrs. Bennie”—opened Bennie’s Big Scoop in 1980.

The then-seasonal store sold ice cream, candy and soda, and featured arcade games. The business eventually evolved into a year-round convenience store that now also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Family, friends and customers say it’s not only the food that has kept locals coming back for more — but Broomer’s hospitality. The business owner was even known to offer “store credit” to loyal customers who needed goods but couldn’t pay right away.

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On Tuesday, the community honored the Broomers for his years of dedication.

Mayor Mike Purzycki signed an executive order declaring the corner of Eighth and Church as “Bennie & Esther H. Broomer’s Way” with a new street sign.

City Council President “Hanifa Shabazz and I were just at the dedication of [Homewood Suites] down on the Riverfront. So we have this big $20 million or $30 million hotel … but that’s not what the soul of the city is. It will be a nice building and hire some people, and we’ll be proud of it. But that will never constitute what is the essence and soul of our city,” Purzycki said.

“It’s all the little businesses, the people who believe in the city and stayed here year after year after year.”

The executive order was initiated by City Councilwoman Michelle Harlee, who was approached by the Broomers’ son, Thomas. During the dedication ceremony, Thomas said his father dedicated about 150,000 hours at the store through the past few decades.

“In those hours, you’ve gone beyond the call of duty by serving your community as a counselor, mentor, financier for the community — who received store credit with a 0 percent APR rate — mediator, bus stop monitor, landlord, entrepreneur, bail bondsman, life coach and interventionist, all while keeping the corner safe and clear of drug activity,” he said.

“In doing so, you’ve managed to be a great role model to your family as a husband, father, brother, uncle, nephew and cousin. You are a living legend, and you’re proof that despite the odds, with due diligence and prayer, African-American businesses can be successful in Wilmington.”

Jon Jervey, the pastor of Spirit and Truth Deliverance Ministries, has been a customer since he was 5 years old.

“He’s been a safe haven for many young children. My parents and grandparents felt safe sending me around here for hours after school to buy penny candy, play the arcade, and they never worried about us with Mr. Bennie because they knew we were safe and protected,” he said.

“When many of us couldn’t travel outside the city due to transportation issues or being too young to drive a car, he provided everything we needed until we were of age when we could go out and make things happen on our own,” he said. “But we’ve all been mindful to come back and support him. Even though we’re grown, we’ve moved out of the city, we’ve never become too big to come back and support Mr. Bennie.”

Broomer said he planned on closing down the store, but the reception he received at the ceremony has inspired him to keep it open. He said his loyal customers motivated him to open and close his store every day all these years.

“I wonder how they doing, and if they gonna need something,” he said. “It’s not all about money — it’s about the people. I’m concerned about people being fed, really, that’s what keep me coming back.”

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