An Ice Cream Store Finds Community Support After a Particularly Rough Month

Jennie Dundas (2nd from left) and employees.

By Lisa Kava

As Thanksgiving approaches, Jennie Dundas, owner of the Blue Marble Ice Cream shop on Broadway and 97th Street, is trying to hold onto the values of the holiday. But it’s hard after the month she’s had. In November, Blue Marble was robbed twice, shoplifted three times, and vandalized, she said.

The odd thing is the robber never asked for more than $20. “It’s important to me to remain positive and keep an attitude of gratitude,” Dundas told West Side Rag. “I can’t imagine what my life situation would have to be in order to risk prison for $20 or less. I feel compassion for those in our community who face these struggles.” 

While Dundas, who lives a block away from the store, feels unsettled, concerned, and has lost employees as a result of the recent events, she is trying to remain optimistic. She is grateful for her community and neighbors, who displayed an outpouring of support after she posted her story on social networking site Nextdoor. “It’s been amazing. We have had over 160 kind and positive comments. People have been coming into the store to show support,” she told West Side Rag. 

On Monday November 8th, at 3:42 PM, a man entered the Blue Marble shop, simulated a gun in his pocket, and told the counter staff to give him $2 in cash, according to Dundas. After the staff member gave him $2, the man asked for another $12. The employee called 911.

The Blue Marble store.

On Wednesday, November 10th, at 3:49 PM, the man returned looking somewhat different, Dundas said. “The first time he wore sunglasses and had his hair pulled back. The second time, he did not wear sunglasses and his hair was down.” He demanded $20.  Dundas called 911. Police arrived and arrested 31-year-old Joshua Tirado, charging him with robbery and petit larceny. A police spokesperson said he lives nearby. Tirado was released on his own recognizance after the district attorney asked that he be given supervised release. His next court date is December 16.

Tirado’s defense attorney did not respond to West Side Rag’s questions about the charges.

The following Monday November 15th at 4:15 PM, Dundas says he returned. “I had already told the counterperson that if he returns, she should go to a safe place in the store and I would handle it,” Dundas said.  “He loitered in the store briefly but when he saw nobody at the counter he turned and left.”

There have been other incidents too that have disturbed the staff. On both Saturday November 13th and Tuesday November 16th  a shoplifter entered the store, took items from the retail shelf and fled. Dundas is not sure if this was the same shoplifter or two different people. And on Thursday November 11th at 9 PM, someone riding a Citi Bike threw a Pepsi bottle at the door of the store.

On Tuesday, November 23rd, shortly after 9 a.m., the original robber returned to the store, “asked for a glass of water, grabbed a lemon loaf and walked out,” Dundas said. She immediately called the police, but he had fled by the time they arrived.

While none of Dundas’ employees has been injured, two have resigned because of safety concerns, she said. “Even though the incidents were non-violent, the cash robber threatened with a gun in pocket which was pretty traumatic,” she said.

Dundas has closed the store early on many days because of lack of staff, and because employees are fearful, she explained.

A former actress, who has appeared in film and television, Dundas co-founded Blue Marble Ice Cream in Brooklyn in 2007, as an ice cream that would use the highest quality organic ingredients, sourced from organic farms and fair-trade purveyors. Dundas opened Blue Marble Ice Cream’s Upper West Side store in March 2021, after moving to the neighborhood herself from Brooklyn. 

From the outset, Dundas valued community. “When we opened, I wanted to express gratitude to the community that was welcoming us in, and to contribute positively to difficult issues facing our city, like rising homelessness and poverty. We decided to contribute 1% of sales to Brotherhood Sister Sol, (https://brotherhood-sistersol.org), a Harlem-based youth development organization,” Dundas said.  

At the moment, community and compassion feel more important than ever to Dundas. “Please frequent the store, please know that your support will enable us to make it through this extremely challenging time,” she wrote to neighbors. “Thieves target an empty store so the more customers we have the more you are all fighting local crime.”

FOOD, NEWS | 28 comments | permalink
    1. Peter says:

      Let’s recap. A guy walks into a store frequented by children, threatens to murder someone over $20, and after getting arrested, he’s promptly released “on his own recognizance.”?!

      The idiocy of our new “justice system” is riveting.

      • Cray Cray says:

        “I can’t imagine what my life situation would have to be in order to risk prison for $20 or less.”

        That’s the thing, he wasn’t risking anything.

        • Sarah says:

          You…know he’s facing trial, right?

          • LK says:

            So in your opinion, while he is waiting to face a trial he should be free to continue to commit crimes ( which is what he is doing )? What deterrent do you suggest? He was arrested while robbing a store with a threat of a firearm. He caused financial and psychological harm to several people on more than one occasion. Do you care about the victims of his crimes? Are you OK if that person robs you while awaiting a trial?

          • Jo Baldwin says:

            “You’re here for your trial sir? Step right through the revolving door and you’ll be out in a jiffy”.

      • Leon says:

        Agreed. I find it impossible to understand this. We have gone way too far in the wrong direction on this. I really don’t see how anyone can justify this. Hopefully his sentencing will be adequate.

        There are currently no consequences for destructive behavior. I don’t care how bad your situation is – you don’t threaten other people. There are plenty of resources to get food. And there are plenty of jobs available – they just might not be your dream job located five feet from your home.

      • David says:

        I couldn’t agree more. The “cashless” bail legislation that was passed by the N.Y. State legislature has created the “turnstile” justice that plagued our city in the past.

    2. Mark Moore says:

      If she thinks November at an ice cream store was rough wait until January.

    3. Mowgli says:

      ‘Community’ without ‘security’ is a ‘jungle’.

    4. LK says:

      And when businesses leave, the same people/politicians that empowered the criminals start blaming landlords. When will the sanity prevail? Criminals should be behind bars while mentally disturbed should get help? Feel terrible for the business, for the workers, for the city. Wake up!

    5. Sarah says:

      Empty streets and stores aren’t good for anyone. Hang in there, Blue Marble. I appreciate your attitude.

      For those who seem despite being highly educated UWSers to be confused about the basics of our justice system: he is still facing criminal liability. He’s just not being punished in advance of actually being found guilty by being stuck in that hellhole known as Rikers. Which is EXACTLY what you’d want for your own kids.

      • David says:

        The horrible conditions at Rikers Island are not a reason to allow alleged criminals who can’t post bail to continue to be free and potentially commit other crimes. The real problem is the failure of the De Blasio administration to manage the NYC jails.

      • Jose Habib says:

        My kids don’t rob people, so that’s not really a concern of mine.

      • Maria says:

        So because a repeat criminal cannot bear to live at Rikers the rest of society needs to bear the brunt of this low life. He is terrorizing people and may harm someone soon. How about don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

    6. Francoise says:

      We are there for you. Please tell us how we can help.

    7. Janie says:

      Why not lock the door and install a buzzer system? Those who want to buy ice cream will be willing to buzz into the store! Those who want to shoplift will be deterred.

    8. Dan S says:

      Local Law 2020/034: “This bill prohibits food and retail establishments from refusing to accept cash from consumers. It also prohibits establishments from charging cash-paying consumers a higher price than cash-less consumers. The bill provides for penalties of not more than $1000 for a first violation, and of not more than $1500 for each succeeding violation…”

      It would certainly be safer for small stores to be allowed to refuse cash sales. Then they could clearly post that there was no cash in the store.

      Perhaps a better local law would be one that provides easy means for unbanked people to convert cash into cash cards.

    9. Al says:

      Anyone who commits a crime while out on bail (as described in the article) should face extremely severe penalties.

      It’s insane that this guy committed the same crime the next day. He’s clearly unable to behave properly within society.

    10. I grew up in the 1960s, working downtown in my father’s stationary/candy store, mostly at the cash register. People (I can’t say “customers”) shoplifted constantly.

      But nobody ever held us up, or held up ANY business surrounding us, or threw bottles at our windows, nothing like that it was unheard of.

      Is this who we are, now? Really? Is it narcissism, sociopathy, solipsism, what?

      Whether it’s relatively small stuff, like this story recounts, or tragedies on the scale of the recent Waukesha mass murder, where the culprit drove at high speed through a crowd, killing 6 and injuring dozens with no signs of remorse, I can’t see this “society”, if that’s what we still have here lasting much longer if we continue to devolve in this way.

    11. Neil Berson says:

      Hang in there Jennie. We appreciate and need retailers like you to offer that extra special treat your small store provides to our community. Neil Berson, Co-President, West 90s Neighborhood Association.

    12. jd says:

      let me start by saying that no store owner or their employees should have to experience this and i’m sure it’s been a traumatic experience and i feel terrible for all involved.

      let me finish by saying the proper name for this establishment is not “Blue Marble ice cream shop” instead it’s aptly named “Blue Marble Ice Cream Boutique” (check the awning”), a scoop costs $7.50 which imo is just crazy. Personally, it’s been hard to feel like this shop is part of our community at those prices.

      I’d rather spend my hard earned $ at sal and carmines, flor de mayo, shiny tea, lenny’s bagels, etc

      • Rag Ragger says:

        Wow, talk about victim blaming. “Sorry you got held up and all, but your ice cream’s too expensive”. Is this really the place for that? The store owner clearly is a positive person who wants to do right by her neighborhood. Save your judgemental whining.

    13. Citycatsman says:

      If the D.A. Is told of these continuing incidents, they could apply to the court for a temporary restraining order( order of protection) which directs the guy to stay away from the location. Each violation could lead to a 6 month jail term.
      Since his identity is known, this could be an effective deterrent. Good luck Ms. Dundas and Blue Marble! You make our neighborhood better.

    14. UWS Musician says:

      No bail no jail