Citing a decline in business, Itgen’s owner mulls sale

Michael Itgen said he was approached last month with an offer to buy Walt Itgen’s Ice Cream Parlour.
Michael Itgen said he was approached last month with an offer to buy Walt Itgen’s Ice Cream Parlour.
Melissa Koenig/Herald

After 50 years of running Walt Itgen’s Ice Cream Parlour on Rockaway Avenue, Michael Itgen is considering selling the old-fashioned luncheonette.

“We always said if we get the right amount of money, we’re off,” Itgen said. “We’d rather work 15 hours or sit at the beach drinking beers doing a little surfing. So if that comes along — you know people talk — but if they produce I’m gone.”

Itgen declined to name the prospective buyer, but said that the shop, if sold, would likely remain similar to what it has been since his father, Walter, opened the restaurant in 1967.

“When I was 2-years-old I was washing dishes,” said Itgen, now 57. “If I was bad in school, I’d be washing dishes. Get suspended, I’m coming to work and doing dishes all day long.”

Over the last five years, Itgen said, business has been slower. He blamed that on the lack of a movie theater in the village.

“They took away the movie theater and the shops don’t do well,” he said. “There’s so many empty stores you see around here, it’s hideous.”

The problems with the downtown, he said, started after the four movie theaters (one on Rockaway Avenue, one on Merrick Road, and two on Sunrise Highway) closed. The last surviving movie theater was the Sunrise Multiplex Cinemas, which closed in 2012.

“Once that shooting happened there, Rockville Centre was the place to go,” Itgen said. “And look at all the restaurants, everybody’s doing amazing there. Maybe if I don’t retire, I’m going to open up a movie theater.”

Itgen’s food and desserts have appealed to many Valley Streamers over the years, including 60-year-old Nancy Duncan.

“I can remember going there after school, after folk group practice and just hanging out there with my friends enjoying their great homemade ice cream or incredible waffles,” Duncan said via Facebook Messenger. “Nowadays when I walk into Walt Itgen’s, I get such a good feeling of comfort and familiarity because of all the great memories.”

For Larry Moses, Itgens serves as a reminder of his time with Valley Stream Little League. “My first memory was playing on the Little League, and they sponsored a team,” he said, remembering he thought the name Itgen’s looked funny on the back of the jerseys.

Moses, 58, goes back to Itgens whenever he visits Valley Stream from Newtown, Conn home. “It’s like stepping back in time,” Moses said.

The restaurant also offered Kathy DiSalvatore, a 56-year-old Valley Stream native who now lives in Brooklyn, a job opportunity in the 1970s. She described her experience working there as “crazy,” because it was a place to gather after school concerts.

DiSalvatore said via Facebook Messenger that she had fun working there and got to know her customers.

“It was a place that when you walked in we knew your name and probably what you wanted to have,” she said.