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At Everyday Sundae, everyone gets a scoop and ‘walks away with a smile’

Customers noticed owner Charles Foreman giving free ice cream to those who couldn't pay, so they started donating money to cover other people's cones.
Owner Charles Foreman inside his ice cream shop Everyday Sundae.
Owner Charles Foreman inside his ice cream shop Everyday Sundae in Washington, D.C.Craig Hudson / The Washington Post via Getty Images

A D.C. ice cream shop makes sure everyone who walks in — whether they've got money in their pocket or not — can get a cone. 

Everyday Sundae is located in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, D.C. and serves ice cream by the scoop — sprinkled with a little extra kindness. Its owner, Charles Foreman, says he can tell when a visitor wants a treat they can't afford, so he gives it to them for free.

“You know when they come in, you can see it,” Foreman tells TODAY.com. “It was naturally in me to (notice) some of the kids have it and some of the kids don’t have it. So I’m gonna sponsor them.”

Foreman says, with the encroaching gentrification in his neighborhood, he wants to show residents — both new and old — that they’re welcome.

Owner Charles Foreman inside his ice cream shop Everyday Sundae.
Foreman inside his ice cream shop Everyday Sundae.Craig Hudson / The Washington Post via Getty Images

“I’ve been living in this neighborhood for 20 years,” he says, adding that he’s also been a chef for two decades. “I just wanted to be a part of that change and show the kids that look like me and look like my son that it’s still a neighborhood for everybody.”

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Foreman had been working as a corporate chef until the pandemic threw a wrench into his career plans.

Foreman poses with a happy visitor to his shop.
Foreman poses with a happy visitor to his shop.Courtesy Charles Foreman

“Long story short, during COVID, I lost my career,” he says. “So I was thinking to myself, what can I do that I really want to do next? And a friend of mine said, ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’”

Foreman says he thought really hard and decided to open his ice cream shop in July 2021.

One of Foreman's Warm Waffle Wednesday confections.
One of Foreman's Warm Waffle Wednesday confections.Courtesy Charles Foreman

Amid the persistence of crime in the D.C. area, particularly in the Petworth neighborhood, Foreman says he’d decided that he wanted to brighten up the neighborhood, serving freshly made sundaes on Warm Waffle Wednesdays.

“You know, they say that an ice cream shop in your neighborhood is an indication that the neighborhood is turning around, and that things are getting better,” Foreman says. “Anybody that knows this area knows Kennedy Street is not the most cordial area, it can get dicey out there, let’s put it that way. So that was it. I just wanted to be right dead center in my community and do something that was positive.”

Foreman with a couple who just got engaged and came to his shop to celebrate.
Foreman with a couple who just got engaged and came to his shop to celebrate.Courtesy Charles Foreman

One day, a woman named Nicole Harkin, who was part of a mothers group circle that would meet every Friday at the shop, noticed Foreman give a free cone to a kid who couldn’t pay. For him, this was a regular occurrence, but it stirred something in Harkin.

“Nicole, she saw me giving one of the kids ice cream and the next week she came back and handed me this envelope with my name on it,” Foreman says. “I looked at the envelope after she left and it was $100.”

Touched by the gesture, Foreman posted about it on social media. This started a chain of giving: Customers began handing him extra cash to cover ice cream for people they didn’t know.

“You know, giving stuff away when you’re a small business owner isn’t great business practice,” Harkin tells TODAY.com with a laugh. “But I could see him trying to do a bigger thing to improve the neighborhood. It was just really nice to see him give those ice cream cones away and really make a tangible difference in his neighborhood.”

Then, more and more people started donating to Foreman’s ice cream fund, and visitors to the shop even started buying cones for people behind them in line, including one "pay it forward" chain that lasted for hours.

“A police officer came in and bought ice cream and said he wanted to buy two scoops for the next two kids that came in,” Foreman says. “So the next two kids came in with their mom and I said, ‘There was an officer and he bought the next two scoops,’ and she was like, ‘Well we want to buy two scoops for the next kids after us.’”

And then, he says, the chain of giving just kept going for the rest of the day.

Foreman with his sons, ages 24 and 14.
Foreman with his sons, ages 24 and 14.Courtesy Charles Foreman

Aside from making sure everyone gets a scoop of ice cream, Foreman takes part in community initiatives year-round, from coat drives to movie nights and summer suds parties for the kids.

Above all, he just wants his ice cream shop to be something positive for his community.

Owner Charles Foreman shows off his wall of love with notes from kids and others in the neighborhood inside his ice cream shop Everyday Sundae.
Owner Charles Foreman shows off his wall of love with notes from kids and others in the neighborhood. Craig Hudson / The Washington Post via Getty Images

“The thing is, everybody loves ice cream and you can’t be mad and order ice cream, right? How can you be upset and be like, 'Yeah, give me a scoop of chocolate,' right? It’s impossible,” Foreman says. 

“Everyone walks away with a smile,” he says. “If you can’t afford it, and I give you one for free, your smile’s even bigger, you know what I mean? That’s all it is.”