As It Happens

This Nova Scotia restaurateur is closing his ice cream shop for the 1st time in 30 years

Jean LeBlanc is closing his Belliveau Cove, N.S., ice cream shop/restaurant for a full day on Wednesday for the first time in exactly 30 years, five months and one day.

Jean LeBlanc will close Chez Jean Dairy Twirl for a single day on Wednesday for his parents' 60th anniversary

Jean LeBlanc works the counter at Chez Jean Dairy Twirl in Belliveau Cove, N.S. (Submitted by Jean LeBlanc)
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Jean LeBlanc is closing his ice cream shop for a full day for the first time in more than 30 years.

Chez Jean Dairy Twirl in Belliveau Cove, N.S., has been open for business every day for the last 11,111 days, serving customers through holidays and hurricanes. 

But on Wednesday, Sept. 18, the family ice cream shop/restaurant will close its doors for the first time in exactly 30 years, five months and one day.

"I think it's a part of my work ethic. I get something started, I just don't want to stop," LeBlanc, 54, told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"And after a while, it sort of became a challenge. Let's see how many days we can keep going."

60th anniversary gift for mom 

So what inspired him to finally break his decades-long streak? His mom, of course.

"She always said that she'd never see the restaurant closed. So as [a 60th] anniversary gift, I told her I'd close the restaurant for one day," he said. 

"She was very happy to see that she'd finally see it close and I wouldn't be working as hard."

The restaurant is closing for a full day on Sept. 18 for the first time in 30 years. (Submitted by Jean LeBlanc)

LeBlanc's parents first opened the shop in 1968 as an ice cream stand, according to the Digby Courier, which first reported the story. They later expanded it to include a restaurant.

LeBlanc worked there while he was in high school, then returned in 1988 after completing university. In 1994, his parents retired and gave him the keys to the ice cream kingdom.

Since then, he's worked through thick and thin, not even closing for Christmas or Boxing Day — though he works alone on holidays, and offers a limited menu.

"Even those days now, there's people that come year after year as part of their Christmas tradition," he said.

Not exactly ice cream weather 

He's even worked through the hurricanes and winter storms that have pummelled the East Coast community over the decades. 

This year, he kept the place running during Hurricane Dorian, using a generator to keep the machines humming during the power outage that ensued. 

He remembers one winter day when the weather was so bad he only got one customer — a man who bought an ice cream cone and soft drink for himself, then returned a few minutes later to grab a beverage for his wife.

"That was the only customer from until 11:00 in the morning till 10:00 at night," he said.

It's not LeBlanc's first day off. He's taken a few short vacations, he says, and exactly two sick days.

"If I'm in the area, I am here every day," he said. "I just live next door, 75 feet away, so it's hard to escape."

His staff of eight manned the ship during his previous absences, but he says he always had the store in the back of his mind. This time, though, LeBlanc intends to fully unplug.

He's already had an anniversary dinner with his parents, so he has Wednesday all to himself. 

"I'm taking my motorcycle out to the Annapolis Valley, and then [in the] night I'm going to be guest starring on a local radio show talking about Area 51," he said.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Produced by Rachel Levy-McLaughlin. 

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