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Cold Stone reopens

Rosin Bold, 3, hold his blue ice cream sundae with rainbow sprinkles on Wednesday at the reopening of the West End Cold Stone Creamery, while his mom, Punky Guffey, considers her options. 

There weren't enough rainbow sprinkles on Rosin Bold's blue ice cream sundae.

Then again, it seemed there weren't enough sprinkles in the world for the 3-year-old.

Cold Stone Creamery reopened Wednesday on the West End despite temperatures in the mid-to-low 30s. A woman pressed her face to the window about an hour after doors opened at noon. She seemed to miss one of the two blinking open signs before walking away. The creamery's third customers of the day hesitated on the threshold and asked, "Are you guys open?"

Bold and his mother, Punky Guffey, brought the number of customers that day into double digits.

The new branch owner for the reopened Billings Cold Stone, Dan Gruntowicz, said the time isn't quite right for a big opening. 

"When you reopen a store like we did here, there are some kinks, stuff people need to get used to," Gruntowicz said. "But I want to get the operation up and running, and then hit the community hard at that point. I mean we're coming into the summer months."

Gruntowicz reopened the store after it closed in September when the previous owners decided not to continue its contract with the ice cream franchise. 

"I was really surprised when they closed," Cold Stone employee Kadee Schock said. "But I was really excited when I heard they were reopening. I love working here."

Gruntowicz hired employees who had worked for the branch previously to get the initial workforce set up.

Kennedee Burk, who has worked at the store for five years and acted as manager for two, returned as one of the store's managers. She is partnered with Amaryllis Oswald, who worked for the store when she was in high school. Gruntowicz said he got in touch with old employees first, but that the store is hiring and looks forward to bringing on new team members. 

After the previous owners decided not to re-sign the franchise agreement with Cold Stone, Burk said she was the one who called corporate to tell them what was happening. She said Cold Stone's corporate offices were incredible and stepped in to remodel the store and contact Gruntowicz. 

After opening one branch of the franchise in Great Falls less than 10 years ago, Gruntowicz made two big moves in under a year. He opened two Cold Stone Creamery stores, one in Missoula and one in Billings. The Missoula branch opened in February. 

"It's upscale, we make all our own ice cream on site, we make everything," Gruntowicz said. "It looks nice, it feels good to be in here, it smells wonderful."

As a franchise, Cold Stone rarely opens two stores in the same market area. When the Billings branch closed, Gruntowicz said reopening it was a no brainier. While the store's location doesn't lend itself to a lot of foot traffic, Gruntowicz said he felt confident Cold Stone has a strong following in Billings. 

While Cold Stone might be a national brand, Gruntowicz said he's never felt that way about his stores. 

"The culture of the store is very mom and pop," Gruntowicz said.

Gruntowicz has run the shop like a family business, with his wife helping him run the three branches and his two daughters working at branches in Missoula and Great Falls.

By 2 p.m. the store had already seen more than a handful of customers. A few patrons threw the employees some spare change, causing the workers to burst into song as thanks.

"It's an ice cream store, you're supposed to have fun," Gruntowicz said. "If you're not having fun there is something wrong."

Cold Stone remains at 896 S. 29th St. W., and is open Sunday through Thursday, noon to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m.

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