Massachusetts ice cream shop suffers from staffing shortage: ‘Doing the best we can’

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Summer worker shortage hits pools, ice cream parlors, camps

Owner of Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlour in Massachusetts Mike Lawrence shares his story as small businesses around the country suffer from labor shortages and increased wages.

Nationwide staffing shortages continue to impact the nation’s small businesses, including Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlor in Mashpee, Massachusetts.

During an appearance on "Fox & Friends" on Tuesday, owner Mark Lawrence shared that he’s having a particularly hard time staffing his Cape Cod business for the summer. Right now, he has only five employees. 

"I should have at least 10 to 12 by now," he said. 

"After school lets out, we normally have 20 employees. It’s just very hard to find them," he said.

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The Wall Street Journal recently reported that 4.5 million more Americans have exited the labor force since February 2020.

The storefront of Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlor in Mashpee, Massachusetts. (Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlor)

But even a business like Lawrence’s, which traditionally hires high school and college students, isn’t seeing a normal return of workers, partly due to the fact that the younger generation prefers fast-money jobs like those at Instacart. 

"You can make a couple of hundred bucks doing that as opposed to coming [in] to work hard in an ice cream shop," he said.

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Federal child labor laws state that high school students of 14 and 15 years old are only permitted to work until 7 p.m. during the school year. 

Lawrence suggested that if these students are allowed to attend late-night events such as away sports games, then they should be able to work late, too — and provide a great benefit to his business.

Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlor owner Mark Lawrence joined “Fox and Friends” on Tuesday, May 31, 2022, to discuss his labor challenges right now.

"In the ice cream industry, 7 o'clock at night is when you’re just starting to get rolling," he said. 

"So, that would be one of the biggest things."

“Just be patient. We’re doing the best we can.”

Even though summer in the Cape is prime ice-cream season, Lawrence said that the current lack of employment has caused him to cut back his shop's hours of operation.

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"I used to be able to open seven days a week," he said. 

"This year, I’ve only been able to open four days a week." 

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A variety of ice cream flavors in waffle cone boats are sold at Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlor in Mashpee, Massachusetts. (Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlor)

"I hired two people over the weekend, so I’ll now be able to go to five days a week," he said. "But I still don’t have anywhere near full coverage."

Massachusetts minimum wage has increased by 75 cents to $14.25, yet even the higher rate isn’t attracting workers, according to Lawrence.

Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlor owner Mark Lawrence of Mashpee, Mass., joined “Fox and Friends” on Tuesday, May 31, 2022. (Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlor)

The owner encouraged customers to "be patient" with other small businesses that may also be struggling with today's labor shortage.

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"We’re all going through it," he said. 

"Just be patient. We’re doing the best we can."

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