The Bethlehem Dairy Store. The Dairy Store. Mowrer’s. The Cup. Whatever people choose to call it, it means the same thing to all: a locally owned and operated business that has been serving up homemade ice cream and memories to Bethlehem residents and visitors since the 1930s.
The Bethlehem Dairy Store, originally owned by the Mowrer family, first opened on Linden Street on Bethlehem’s North Side in the 1930s. Those first few generations knew the shop as “The Dairy Store” or “Mowrer’s,” after the store’s owners. However, the shop’s emblematic giant milkshake-cup shape lead to its more current nickname “The Cup.”
“We don’t care what they call it, as long as they keep coming,” co-owner of The Bethlehem Dairy Store Inc., Bill Burkhardt said.
Burkhardt, who worked scooping ice cream for the original Linden street shop in high school in the 1960s, bought The Bethlehem Dairy Store Inc. with co-owner Frederick Buckenmeyer in 1983 and continued to serve area families from the store’s original location.
It wasn’t until 2002 that Barry Gall, who was working on the development of Lehigh’s initiative to bridge the gap between the campus and the community through the construction of Farrington Square, approached Burkhardt with a proposal to open “The Cup” just at the end of Lehigh’s campus.
“It was such a nice location, we jumped at that opportunity right away,” recalls Burkhardt.
The Cup and the university bookstore are the only two spots that have held residency since the opening of Campus Square, which was renamed Farrington Square earlier this year.
Burkhardt discussed that the shop does see a lot of business from both students and area families. He said that during the school year the majority of patronage comes from Lehigh students, while more area families visit during the summer months. However, both times of year see a broad demographic.
“I think it’s certainly helped to create a better environment for the town-gown philosophy in the area,” he said.
The only time the shop closes is during Lehigh’s winter break, as most students aren’t on campus and fewer area families are going out for ice cream.
Erik Roman, who started at the Linden Street store, has worked part-time with Lehigh’s store since its opening.
“You tend to get to know people by name sometimes, you just talk to them and get to know them,” Roman said of visitors who frequent the store.
He discussed a time where he left the store for five years and later came back to work again, he recalled seeing familiar faces from five years ago his first day back on the job, and how strong those relationships can be.
For some students The Cup is a special-occasion visit, while for others, such as Aislinn Bryan, ’17, Kassidy Green, ’17, and Janelle High, ’17, all members of Lehigh’s field hockey team, it is a frequent occurrence.
“Oh we probably come here about 10 times per month. It’s kind of our spot,” Bryan said, “We usually end up just staying and talking for hours.”
The three discussed going to The Cup as a way to take a study break, de-stress or simply just stay and talk. Green said she enjoys a trip to The Cup because there are always new faces to see, too. She even discussed enjoying her interactions with local families and Bethlehem children.
“I love coming here because so many people come in and out you never know who you’re going to see,” she said.
Bryan also agreed with Roman’s sentiment that it’s hard not to get to know those who frequent the ice cream shop. She said they often see the same regulars whenever they stop by.
High also added that the three of them, though juniors now, had been consistent regulars since before they even officially began their freshman year.
“This was one of our first experiences here during preseason,” she said. “I remember I got mint chocolate chip.”
All three girls discussed their favorite tasty treats. Green said he enjoys the shop’s sauces, as she scooped a spoonful of her sundae topped with hot fudge and peanut butter sauce from her dish. High was slowly indulging in her recent favorite, chocolate fudge brownie, and Bryan sipped on a milkshake.
“I love the black and white milkshake,” she said. “It reminds me of my mom’s milkshakes.”
With all ice cream being homemade at the Linden Street store, and regularly replenished at the Lehigh store, Roman also commented on the shops most popular flavors, citing mint chocolate chip, peanut butter cookie and moose tracks, among others, as fan favorites. Burkhardt also discussed the shop’s specialty seasonal flavors such as fall’s pumpkin cheesecake, winter’s peppermint stick, and a variety of summery, fruity flavors.
“Time flies at The Cup,” said Green. “You get a good cup of ice cream, a good laugh, and some great memories.”