A Valparaiso Life in the Spotlight: Patricia Berning

A Valparaiso Life in the Spotlight: Patricia Berning
By: Haley Alexander Last Updated: July 22, 2020

On the corner of Morgan Blvd. and Lincolnway in downtown Valparaiso sits a one-of-a-kind ice cream parlor, Pat’s Ice Cream Parlor.

The owner of Pat’s is as sweet as the confection she sells. Patricia Berning of Glen Park grew up surrounded by and adoring the wonderful world of ice cream. In 1980, on April Fool’s Day, the ice cream parlor opened for business. Back then, it was a Baskin-Robbins franchise initially owned by her mother before Berning took it over.

“My dad had originally purchased the building to turn into a gift shop, but he passed away before that could ever come to fruition. My mom bought the franchise and turned the building into a Baskin-Robbins shop,” Berning said.

Her reasoning for turning the shop into Pat’s was simple – she wanted to do things her own way.

“After 19 years with Baskin-Robbins, I felt like I wanted to do things differently than my mom did, but it wasn’t until I had the business under my name that I could start making those changes from the restrictions that come with a franchise,” Berning said.

Berning is proud to say that her shop was the first in Indiana to sell the Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream brand.

“They’re an award-winning micro-dairy based out of Madison, WI. I like that they’re family owned, and all of their ice cream is kosher, too,” she said. “Chocolate Shoppe has the #1 vanilla and chocolate ice creams in the entire United States – it’s high quality, super creamy, and just a really wonderful product.”

She also takes pride in the fact that the shop makes their own waffle cones in different sizes, dipped colors, and flavors.

“I think our homemade waffle cones pull in a lot of people because they smell absolutely amazing coming out of the window,” she said.

Along with her passion for ice cream, Berning also finds joy in rescuing stray cats that seek shelter in her neighborhood.

“They always seem to make their way to my yard, it’s been that way for many years, but I honestly enjoy being able to help them. My neighbor and I usually go in on expenses to get them fixed, to buy them medication if they need it, etc. I’m glad to do it.” she said.

Since the re-opening of Indiana businesses this summer, Pat’s Ice Cream Parlor has been hard at it.

“I’m busier this June than I was last June. The community here is so supportive of small businesses like mine and I could never thank them enough,” she said. “I get to meet new people every day that become regulars. There are elderly people who have been coming here for 40 years and it’s just a really nice, warm feeling. I’ve even had three proposals in here, wedding photos… so many wonderful memories.”

Berning has lived in Valpo for over 45 years.

“Valpo is definitely my home. I love the people here,” she said. “For as long as I’ve been here, I’ve seen people that have come in that now bring their kids, and then their grandkids! I’m thankful that I’m able to be close with my customers and really get to know them.”

Berning has two children – Jennifer of Nashville, TN, and Gregory of Louisville, KY. She also has three fur babies – Nola, Leo, and Baby.

“My cats are my stress relievers. When you work as much as I do, you need some kind of outlet that just brings you joy and helps you unwind. I really like gardening, too,” she said.

Berning’s shining personality, whimsical décor, and delicious ice cream make for a true community staple.

“Once everything has calmed down and were fully reopened, we’ll be giving things away for the 40th anniversary. I’m so excited to finally celebrate with the community!”

It’s no secret that Pat’s is a local favorite complete with a lovely atmosphere, high-quality ice cream, an affectionate owner, and a caring staff. To learn more about what is offered and what is happening at Pat’s Ice Cream Parlor, please visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Pats-Ice-Cream-Parlor-6534904603/.