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Last Chance For Rita's Ice

After a move from North Jersey, this columnist views the sights, sounds, and tastes of Manalapan through fresh eyes.

The memories of summer are fading like spilled ice on a sidewalk. By sidewalk I mean the one outside of Rita's in Manalapan and by ice I mean the cherry kind with the bits of real fruit that get stuck in your teeth.

I'd gone all summer without any of the sweet refreshing taste of cherry Rita's Ice. Now with September drifting away and October hot on it's heels, it was time to get my fill. But, would they still be open? And what happens to all the happy-go-lucky people always working behind the counter? Do they migrate south for the winter? Or maybe get a more appropriate seasonal job, like working at a hot chocolate stand. Or knitting scarves. You have to wonder.

Rita's Ice is located on the northbound side of Route 9. I pull my car into the parking lot, but it doesn't look good. Things have that closed down appearance. It is an overcast day so I wasn't expecting a crowd, but I do think maybe a worker or two should be sitting around applying for snow plow jobs.

The place looks empty, but it's hard to tell with all those windows. I realize that you never actually go inside of a Rita's, it's more like you stand outside of one - like when you were a kid and you knocked on your friend's door to see if he could come out. You hardly never went in. It's like that. Except with flavorful ice.

I'm not standing on the sidewalk more than 15 seconds and a window flies open. A young girl appears and smiles. She's happy. Probably because the boss just told her to take a few days off until April of next year.

"Are you guys open year round?" I ask.

The happy-go-lucky girl says that they close on Oct. 2. I make a face and tell her it stinks that she'll be out of a job. She replies that she's going to look for a "real job", which strikes me as odd because she looks like she's in high school and nobody looks for a real job in high school. I haven't been in high school for a long time and I still haven't gone looking for a real job. I make a mental note to get an application, this might be just the job for me.

"Aren't you in high school?" I ask. She says she just graduated college.

"Wow, you look young," I say while taking the bright red mound of ice from her. Then I realize she doesn't look young so much. Just happy. The same kind of happy I look after I take a few heaping spoonfuls of cherry.

Make sure to get happy with your fill of Rita's before they close for the season October 2nd. They're located at 342 US Highway 9 North in Manalapan.

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