Wednesday, October 1, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Baskin-Robbins’ Elsie and Mary: Sweeter than a sugar cone

Mary Minakata, left and Elsie Nakamura, the original owners of the Baskin-Robbins on North Texas Street. Click to view gallery.

Mary Minakata, left and Elsie Nakamura, the original owners of the Baskin-Robbins on North Texas Street. Click to view gallery.

By
From page A2 | February 01, 2013 |

I found out recently that the Baskin-Robbins on North Texas Street closed. Seeing the interior gutted and the “for lease” sign on the building deeply saddened me as in the 1980s I had worked there for the original owners, sisters/partners Elsie Nakamura and Mary Minakata, who ran it from 1969-90.

Elsie and Mary were two of six children born to Toshiyuki and Fusae Minakata, who were first-generation Japanese immigrants, or Issei. Elsie and Mary were born in Suisun Valley, in 1919 and 1921 respectively, and were part of the Nisei, or second generation.

Shortly after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, the shameful internment of Americans of Japanese descent began. Elsie was sent to the Gila River War Relocation Center near Phoenix. She married Tadashi Nakamura in 1946.

During the war, Mary had been attending school in Japan and she was forced to vote in an election there to get rations. As a consequence, the U.S. government revoked her U.S. citizenship. It took 10 years to get it back. When she finally did, she came to San Francisco and worked in a garment factory until she and Elsie decided to open a 31 Flavors ice cream shop in Fairfield on Oct. 4, 1969.

Elsie took care of the books and Mary made custom ice cream cakes and pies fresh to order.

The word that comes up time and again when people look back on Elsie and Mary is “nice.” In reference to them, that word should always be in capital letters, bold, underlined and with an exclamation point at the end.

Mary and Elsie allowed employees to eat whatever we wanted for free while we were at work. My favorite was two scoops of Pralines ‘N Cream with strawberry topping, whipped cream and nuts. I blew up like a balloon while working there.

If you worked the lunch shift, they would bring you lunch from awesome local restaurants like Pelayo’s, Eastern Cafe, Dan and Ruth’s and Omodaka.

An elderly man named Owen would come each morning to buy a hand-packed pint of Jamoca Almond Fudge. They charged him $1, even though it was at least twice that much back then.

Every couple of months we would clean the freezers. It was a big job that took hours. Mary would go to Shakey’s and buy us pizza, chicken and those wondrous mojo potatoes for fuel.

A friend from church, Albert Warren, got me the job and I worked with John and Jerry Bassler, Paul Brodeur, Darin Kermoade, Kelly Farney, Thomas Basham, Roger Martinez and Elsie’s daughter Jayne, among others.

One drawback from scooping ice cream was that unless you were ambidextrous, you got one arm that looked like Popeye and one that looked like Olive Oyl.

Other locals shared remembrances:

Ray Anne Fune Sullivan: “I remember the day Baskin-Robbins opened. I took the day off from work, just so I could be one of the first customers.”

Clarissa Correa: “I used to go there all the time as a kid. Those ladies were so sweet. I always loved the ceramic cats they had on the shelf behind their counter. They used to tell me they were for good luck. Anytime I see one of those cats, it brings back found memories of that place!”

Mike O’Connor: “I remember them as an incredibly nice family. Jayne Nakamura worked there and I played with her brother Jimmy in the band Matrix. They donated products to raffle so we could earn money to buy band equipment. Lots of nice memories stopping by to sample the many flavors.”

Bill Fischer: “Back in the early and mid ’70s, this is where our family would collect prizes from family games and bets from football games. Dad was so cool because everyone was a winner so we’d all get double scoops.”

Elsie is now 93 and in poor health, but Mary at 91 still has the twinkle in her eye and the same wonderful smile and laugh I remember.

Now, there is another Baskin-Robbins in Fairfield near Raley’s on Travis Boulevard where I can get my Pralines’ N Cream fix, but they can’t give me a double scoop of delicious memories of working for two wonderful human beings.

Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at getthelowdown@sbcglobal.net.

Tony Wade

Tony Wade

Tony Wade is the slightly older yet infinitely more handsome brother of long-time DR columnist Kelvin Wade
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Marisa Sandoval Del RealFebruary 01, 2013 - 7:45 am

    I grew up on the Nakamura ranch and loved Elsie and Tad. They were great neighbors and I have many fond memories of all them all. My brother also worked at Baskin Robbins for Elsie and Mary his teenage years and I loved being able to go and get free ice cream all the time. They were and still are great and loving people.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

 
 
Middle school students put school candidates on the hot seat

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Solano focuses on rail safety

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

 
 
Booz and Brewz benefit for the Blue Star Moms

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

Police search for missing man

By Glen Faison | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Travis airman killed in motorcycle accident

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A5

 
Caltrans cancels nighttime Highway 37 closures

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

Salvation Army gears up for annual Red Kettle campaign

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Blessing of the animals slated Sunday

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
Theaters primed for bevy of new movies

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

Fairfield police log: Sept. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9, 2 Comments

 
Suisun City police log: Sept. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Fairfield police log: Sept. 27, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A9, 2 Comments

 
Suisun City police log: Sept. 28, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A9

Suisun City police log: Sept. 27, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A9

 
Fairfield police log: Sept. 28, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A9, 2 Comments

4-H Achievement Night honors county members

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A10

 
Measure A committee plans weekend precinct walk

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A10

 
FBI announces reward for Vacaville bank robber

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A10

American Legion seeks Korean War veterans for award

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
Third Annual Ride to Defeat Diabetes is Sunday

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

.

US / World

Forest areas reopen after huge fire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Hong Kong leader refuses to meet with protesters

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Secret Service chief on hot seat for WH breach

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Afghan pact signed amid questions on Iraq pullout

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Government confirms first case of Ebola in US

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Mayor of suburban Los Angeles city killed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9, 1 Comment

Crash, suspicious device lead to 101 closure in LA

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Gov. Brown governor vetoes ethics bills

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9, 6 Comments

Police on manhunt find pipe bombs in woods

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Oklahoma man charged with murder in beheading

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Luck, instinct determined fates of volcano hikers

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
California becomes first state to ban plastic bags

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11, 6 Comments

Bay Area looks to expand overnight transit options

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

 
Gov. Jerry Brown signs California gun restriction

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 13 Comments

.

Living

Today in History: Oct. 1, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Oct. 1, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Horoscopes: Oct. 1, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

One simple slicing trick to bake a beautiful tart

By Sara Moulton | From Page: B6

 
The flavor of fall – pumpkin pie in a cinnamon bun

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6, 1 Comment

 
.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A5

 
Morgan: ‘Can’t believe’ Walmart blaming him

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

.

Sports

Royals beat A’s 9-8 in 12 in AL wild-card thriller

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Local report: Rodriguez volleyball team downs Armijo

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

Pirates’ Volquez looks to continue revival against Giants

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Raiders make Tony Sparano interim coach after firing Allen

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Government: NFL TV ‘blackout’ rule unsportsmanlike

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Olympian Michael Phelps apologizes for DUI arrest

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Gravely injured Giants fan sues Dodgers again

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2, 1 Comment

Ex 49ers RB James agrees to terms with Dolphins

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
FCC will consider petition to ban ‘Redskins’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Training camp essential for NBA’s new head coaches like Warriors’ Kerr

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

No. 14 Stanford trying to jolt stagnant offense

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
NC State coach apologizes for fake injury remarks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NFL says Abdullah should not have been penalized

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
NFL has laundry list of verboten celebrations

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

49ers’ Wilhoite filling the injury void at linebacker

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
.

Business

EU says Apple gets illegal tax benefits in Ireland

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Could a merger follow the PayPal-eBay split?

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

.

Obituaries

Clara May Clift Triplett

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A4, 3 Comments

 
David Earl Butenhoff-Forristall

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Marte Abad Lubag

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

.

Breast Cancer Awareness 2014

Breast cancer in younger women

By Green Shoot Media | From Page: BCA2

Talking with your doctor

By Green Shoot Media | From Page: BCA3

Breast cancer myths

By Green Shoot Media | From Page: BCA4

Diet linked to cancer

By Green Shoot Media | From Page: BCA9

Giving emotional support

By Green Shoot Media | From Page: BCA10

After the treatment

By Green Shoot Media | From Page: BCA12

Join the fight: Get involved

By Green Shoot Media | From Page: BCA15