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Royal Oak's Ray's Ice Cream launches fundraiser amid hard times in the COVID-19 pandemic

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Posted at 6:34 PM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 18:42:36-05

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (WXYZ) — Seven days a week for more than 60 years Ray’s Ice cream has been serving up sweet frosty homemade treats with a retro vibe, often donating to community fundraisers and sports teams.

This neighborhood staple has been hit hard by the pandemic, not sure how much longer their family business will be able to survive.

Ray’s Ice Cream opened in Royal Oak in 1958.

Founder Ray Stevens was the current President of Ray's Ice Cream Tom Stevens’ grandfather.

“I started working here when I was 7 years old, I couldn’t wait to get here,” says Stevens.

For over 60 years they’ve used the same secret family recipe making more than 40 flavors in the back of the shop.

“It’s a fun place to work. Everybody seems pretty happy when they walk out the door,” says Stevens.

For nearly a year not many have been walking in the door due to COVID-19.

“Door Dash, Uber Eats, it just doesn’t work for ice cream. It’s gonna be melted before it gets there,” says Stevens.

They offer curbside pick up and sell ice cream by the pint, quart, and half-gallon, but it’s not enough.

“The hard part is, half our business is supplying restaurants and country clubs and that’s gone too,” says Stevens.

Month after month they’ve been going deeper into debt. The pandemic has struck a near-fatal blow to this family business.

“It’s all I know, it’s all the family knows. For four generations it’s all we do and I still love coming to work, even though I’ve spent sleepless nights looking at the ceiling thinking how am I gonna pay this bill, how am I gonna pay that bill.”

Stevens says he fought to put his pride aside and, for the first time in 60 years, he asked for help, sharing a fundraiser in a post on the Ray’s Ice Cream Facebook page.

In just 24 hours donations have poured in and so have encouraging comments, giving Tom and his family hope.

“I want to say, love to all our customers! If we make it through, which I hope we do, July 4th is going to be our free ice cream day for everybody,” says Stevens.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

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See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.