- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2003

Retired builder David Watts and his wife, Cheryl, are converting one of Prince George’s County’s historic landmarks into an ice cream parlor.

Built as a general store in 1867, the building at 13700 Old Brandywine Road will soon become the Ice Cream Factory and Cafe.

It was vacant and in terrible condition when Mr. Watts bought it in July for $65,000.

“You could hardly walk inside,” Mr. Watts said, adding that the wood siding was warped and the tin roof rusted. Pigeons lived inside.

“All the neighbors around here say that it is now the most uplifted place in Brandywine,” Mr. Watts said. “They are thrilled about it because it was about to fall down.”

Mr. Watts has lived in Brandywine for 32 years and remembers shopping at the building when it was an antiques store.

Through its 136-year history, the building also served as a church and as a gas station, where President Woodrow Wilson used to stop.

The Wattses have worked closely with the Prince George’s Historic Preservation Commission to maintain the building’s 1860s flavor.

“I kind of fought with [the Historic Commission] in the beginning,” Mr. Watts said. “Then I realized that I was not going to win, so I gave up and went on their side. They have been very, very helpful.”

To maintain the building’s historic integrity, the ice cream parlor must display a hand-painted sign and no neon lights. Most of the building’s original materials have been restored and reused in the renovation. Even the white-and-green color scheme is original and had to be approved by the Historic Commission.

The Wattses intend to open their parlor by July, serving soft-serve ice cream with old-fashioned hospitality from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. It’s near the intersection of Route 5 (Branch Avenue) and Brandywine Road, behind Gwynn Park High School.

“Look at all these young people that are a captive audience for our ice cream products,” Mrs. Watts said of her potential high school customers.

The location is missing one thing — parking. Prince George’s County will permit Mr. Watts to pave only seven parking spaces alongside the building, but he plans to work around that.

“You know, they say six, I build seven, then eight,” he says.

The Wattses began their renovations in September. The white-and-green-trimmed exterior has been repaired, and the pigeon droppings have been removed. But the front porch has no steps, and the interior has no lighting.

The smell of spackle and sawdust lingers, but the Wattses hope to serve their first dish of ice cream within 30 days.

Mrs. Watts believes her husband can finish the project in time.

“You don’t know what he is like,” she says. “I mean, he is a task master.”

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