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  • Writer's pictureJeff Smith

Polar Cave Home Made Ice Cream Parlour: Mashpee's local source of happiness.

Mark Lawrence is the proud owner of the Polar Cave in Mashpee. He has owned this store for 14 years and is a very well known and well-respected person in the community. Mark is not from Cape Cod, but like so many of us he fell in love and decided to make this his home. Mark’s story really begins outside of London, England where he was born. Tragically Mark’s mother passed away when he was only six months old, so his father and grandparents raised him. Mark was put through private school by his aunt and uncle. He began working at 14 at a local convenience store, but did not want this to be his life. Mark explained that in England it is customary to take over the family business, and that he felt like life was already predetermined. At 17 Mark decided to leave England and move to America on his own. He wanted more, he wanted the “American Dream!”

Mark moved in with his Aunt and Uncle in Las Vegas and began working at their travel agency. He enrolled in UNLV and prepared for a life in the hotel service industry. Las Vegas took its toll on Mark, and he “had to leave” so he did. He was offered a job in Boston opening a travel agency. This was the best option for him so he left Vegas with a single $1 bill in his wallet. He still carries this folded up dollar in his wallet as a reminder of how bad times can be. He understands that everything he has worked for can be gone in an instant. He never spent his last dollar, no matter how badly he might have needed it. Mark began working in Boston at 21 years old and was invited to the Cape by a friend. They travelled down, and he never left. He knew this had to be his home. He began commuting to Boston daily, but quickly realized this company did not share the same values he does.

At 22 years old he found himself unemployed and broke on Cape Cod. He was over qualified for the local hotel industry, as he had been working at world-famous hotels in Las Vegas. Mark reached out to a friend who owned a full-service gas station, where he worked for 4 years. He reminded himself that he was not too proud to take any job at this time. He is a very hard worker and became the manager of this gas station. He had come full circle, the reason he left England was to avoid running a similar store, but ironically he was working that exact job thousands of miles away from “home.”

He loved the hotel industry, and took a position opening the Ocean Edge Resort & Conference Center, in Brewster. The transitional management team was only around for 3 years, and they began to hire more affordable work. Mark again found himself hating “corporate America” but it seemed like his only option. He took another service industry job, where he was given unrealistic goals and was scrutinized when he only surpassed them by a small percentage. He was on the rise with this company and was given a significant bonus for his performance. This was his chance, and he took it. The Polar Cave was for sale and Mark used this bonus money to become its new owner.

What made Mark buy a small ice cream shop in Mashpee, MA? He said it just made sense, and everyone loves ice cream. He sells “Happiness” and his biggest customer complaints are dropping a cone as they walk outside. This is easy to resolve, “Give them another one, if they don’t like the flavor, they can pick another. There aren’t bad days when you sell happiness.”

Right then Mark jumped up with excitement, as a customer and friend walked in just to say hello. He was beyond excited to see her and they shared a long hug. She began to explain how passionate and considerate of a person Mark is. She explained that when she worked for a hospice Mark would come in all the time to bring free ice cream to the patients. This was unprompted, but started to embarrass Mark as his face turned red. They said goodbye to each other, and he offered her an ice cream. She said no, and that she just came in to see him. What a great example of what he means to the community. It’s not just an ice cream shop, its’ where people and families have made memories for decades.

When Mark opened the Polar Cave 14 years he was met with plenty of financial challenges. He struggled for a while working a second job for the first few years. He did not start to earn a profit for five years, and knew that was on his way. He believed the Polar Cave was going to be successful when he started seeing customers bring in friends, who would in turn bring in their own friends. This was a special feeling for him! Mark described his worst day when a customer actually broke into the Polar Cave after hours. They got away with $600 and a warm can of Coke. He then said something that was truly amazing to me; “unfortunately for him he left a few drops of blood when he broke the glass, so they caught him.” He felt bad for the guy because he must have been so desperate to break into an ice cream store.

We began to discuss how much his customers mean to him, why he is different and who is biggest competitor is. He opened up about going to visit “customers” in the hospital, at their homes, going to weddings, and even funerals. He feels that his customers are extended family and that they need ice cream in their lives. He said his biggest competition is Stop & Shop and Roche Brothers. Just then a family completed their order and walked outside so he referenced how they just spent $12.03 on his ice cream, when they could have gone to one of the supermarkets and spent a lot less. They chose the Polar Cave because of the total experience. A family sharing ice cream at a picnic table provides them the opportunity to bond, which is really invaluable.

A successful business owner has been through a lot. They have a ton of wisdom and even some regrets. Mark would encourage young entrepreneurs to maintain a healthy mixture of work and life. He has been through a few failed relationships and hopes he will find a companion that accepts his work comes first. He has sacrificed personal relationships for his passion, and it visibly affects him. He is proud of everything he’s accomplished, but would truly love a to be in love.

Mark has big dreams, and understands that it costs the same to dream big as it does to dream small. His eyes lit up as he described his BIG dream. He wants a Polar Cave ice cream shop in a major Las Vegas casino accompanied by a live polar bear exhibit. He discussed thoughts of franchising the Polar Cave locally and hoping that his daughter, who is currently in college, would want to take the business over down the road. The Polar Cave is currently open every day from 1pm to at least 9pm, and once summer arrives the lines will be nearly an hour long. Mark is there almost every day making waffle cones and greeting his extended family with a friendly smile. Take a minute to introduce yourself to one of the most genuinely nice people on the Cape.

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