Nearly a quarter century
Ferdinand's Grabber sales soar with fall semester
|WSU economics major Ben Shelton serves up Grabbers at Ferdinand’s.|
Which means, of course, that WSU's Ferdinand's Ice Cream Shoppe — where the product is made and sold — is going into full-throttle Grabber mode.
"Sales really take a turn as students start coming back for the fall term,” said WSU Creamery manager Russ Salvadalena, standing next to an outdoor table at Ferdinand's where two customers stretch their jaws around the $2.09 frozen treat. "For a solid four weeks or so, we sell more Grabbers than any other time of year,” he said.
The sandwiches, handmade by student employees for almost a quarter-century, are praised for being both nostalgic and exotic — a frozen snack of yesterday, made for today.
That's because Grabbers aren't the ice cream sandwiches of yesteryear: slabs of vanilla ice cream flattened between two cardboard-like chocolate wafers. No, these are cumulus clouds of ice cream bulging between two oatmeal cookies as chewy as Grandma's.
But it's at the cusp of summer when sales really start to soar. Between now and mid-September customers will order roughly 5,400 Grabbers, many of them filled with cookie-dough ice cream -- a student favorite, said Salvadalena. Others include Cougar Trax, a concoction of fudge-swirled vanilla with chunks of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and huckleberry, which recently placed first in the Progressive Dairyman's 2012 Flavor Faceoff.
"It's not unusual for students to buy Grabbers by the boxfuls, taking them back to share at their dorms, fraternities and sororities,” said Salvadalena, "We get a lot of parents buying them, too.”
Hand-made cold comfort
Ferdinand's Ice Cream Shoppe
The process of making Grabbers is far from assembly-line. Working in pairs, student employees use a customized, stainless steel tool with a circular top "to punch hockey puck-sized cylinders of ice cream” from three-gallon containers, said Salvadalena. "It's pretty labor intensive,” he said.
When these cold-comfort whoppers are presented for sale, customers find them tucked neatly inside a sleeve of crisp white paper brandishing an etching of a Holstein calf. Thirteen years ago, Meleah Hickman slid Grabbers out from those sleeves when she was a freshman at WSU. Hickman, now a geneticist in Minneapolis, was so taken by Grabbers that more than a decade later, she posted an entry about these "amazing ice cream sandwiches” on her food and science blog.
Grabbers were a "bright, shiny light during my time at WSU,” she wrote.
Contacted by e-mail to describe their appeal, Hickman responded: "Without doubt, the fact that the cookies are oatmeal and not chocolate or chocolate chip (as you often find with ice cream sandwiches) helps make Grabbers special,” she said. "The texture the oatmeal adds is phenomenal. I, without fail, would always get the strawberry, and the combination of strawberries and oatmeal is glorious.”
Linda Weiford, WSU News: 509-335-7209, firstname.lastname@example.org