Beloved community staple of Lawrenceville shares their business story

By Tristan Leach

On Main Street of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, there is a purple house with hanging plants and flowers covering the porch. The grass around the house is covered with black chairs and tables where people of all ages can enjoy ice cream: this is the home of Purple Cow.

Priding itself on being a place of community, owners Tom and Cindy Pearce just celebrated the shop’s 12th anniversary. The friendly couple spend their days scooping ice cream, making banana splits and serving up freshly made sundaes.

Before the two started Purple Cow, they were on a much different career path. Both found themselves working in the corporate world, with Tom working for the financial firm, Merrill Lynch.

“I took a package and got laid off. Our minds started turning of what we could do differently, and that’s when we came up with the idea of ice cream,” said Tom Pearce. “There was no ice cream in this little hamlet of Lawrenceville, so we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to do something.”

The couple scouted the available buildings in the town, nearly picking the building next to what is now home to The Gingered Peach, a local bakery. But the duo fell in love with a bigger location with a homely front yard and porch.

Cindy Pearce said, “We were just testing the waters a little bit. We were looking into it and found out this building was also for rent, and we said, ‘You know, if we’re going to do this, we want one that’s bigger.’ This is just such a great location for the people across the street, Rider up the road. There’s so much that we can attract.”

Next came picking the name of the shop. Katie Pearce, Tom and Cindy’s daughter, had painted
a picture of a purple cow in kindergarten. This became the perfect inspiration when it came to naming the shop. However, there was a bump in the road. In the Midwest, there was also a chain of ice cream stores called Purple Cow. Tom and Cindy Pearce had already been using the name for a year when they received a cease and desist letter.

There were two options: stop using the name or pay the chain a hefty amount of money. Instead of giving in, the Pearces found a trademark lawyer who managed to get the couple free use of the name. From there, the husband and wife got to work on scouting someone who could provide the
sweet treat that their business would be based around.

“Everything we’ve tried to do at Purple Cow is quality related. We want the best ice cream,” said Tom Pearce.

Finding the right ice cream has proved to be successful with hundreds of people pouring into
the shop. Students like Jayme Schneider, a senior elementary education major, often visit for their favorite flavor, moose tracks.

“I feel that [Purple Cow] is so homey,” said Schneider. “The workers are so welcoming and
want to talk to you all the time. It makes you feel comfortable whenever you go.”

While the promise of a delicious sweet treat attracts customers, the community that Cindy and Tom Pearce have built is what keeps them coming back. The walls of the shop are painted in bright rainbow colors and are decorated with an assortment of pieces from this found family of customers and community members. Artwork made by an artists colony hangs in the dining room. There is a wall solely dedicated to the little league sports teams the shop has sponsored.

Next to their soda machine is another wall covered in photos; this wall is dedicated to the fire department of Lawrenceville.

The couple has donated an estimated $30,000 to the department since starting the business. Cindy and Tom Pearce do not take the tips left in the jar next to the register; instead, they give the money to
a children’s charity, breast cancer foundations or the fire department.

“Because we love being part of this community, we have been contributing donations to local businesses. So it’s really what the community means to us. We just love Lawrenceville,” said Cindy Pearce. “Really, the community supports each other.”

Tom and Cindy Pearce are beloved in the community, with regulars cooking dinner for them and bringing in art work for the shop. Behind the counter is a display case of purple cow art work. Paintings, ceramic figures, crotched cows and more line the stuffed shelves.

Business is not slowing down anytime soon, and Tom and Cindy Pearce like it that way. Their love for the community and the community’s love for them is endless and keeps the small township of Lawrenceville alive.

Cindy Pearce said, “If we have a legacy, I hope that kids, when they come in here years from now, they’ll say ‘Do you remember when we used to go to the Purple Cow?’ because it’s fun, and that’s what my hope is.”

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