The Roanoker - July/August 2018 - 101

S W E E T S U M M E R T R E AT S

Beat the Blue Ridge Heat
with These Chilly Treats!
S'MORES
COOKIE

But her father, Rudolpho Castelli-a first-generation
American and career postal worker-had pinched and saved
so his children could have the college education he never
did. Fortunately, Rudy (Castelli's nickname for her dad)
was incredibly wise, and entrepreneurial besides. He took
his daughter's college money and invested it in opening a
small Italian ice shop on Walnut Street in Vinton. At the
age of 17, Debra Castelli was a business owner.
Though she was named part owner on paper, in reality,
Castelli held none of the business-side responsibilities
those early years. "People ask me all the time, 'How'd
you do this when you were 17?' Well, I didn't," she says,
matter of fact. "It was all my dad's idea. He set it up and
I started working it seven days a week."
Soon after opening, the Castellis decided to run a
truck through the neighborhoods of Vinton, selling
their homemade Italian Ice. They bought a 1969 postal
truck, cut a hole in one side, outfitted it with a bell and
named her Beulah. They'd load Beulah up with frozen
lemonade the same time every day and drive her through
Vinton's neighborhoods.
"The little kids were so fun," smiles Castelli. "They
didn't know whether to run for the truck or for the
money. They would just be spinning!"
She shows me, taking steps one way, then the other,
circling around just like a hyper-excited child, laughing
at her crystal clear, sweet memory of them.
Fifteen years after opening, the Castellis relocated
Deb's to Brambleton Avenue. They bought the old,
run-down Lendy's fast food joint and went to work.
Hours of elbow grease and gallons of white paint later,
Deb's Frozen Lemonade reopened, their bright green
sign proudly displaying a happy tilted lemon scripted
with "Deb's" on a tall pole out front. Unbeknownst to
them, that very sign-or rather the logo it displayed-
would later become the center of a heated controversy
and attempted trademark lawsuit by Del's Lemonade.
In 2013, the hefty New England chain claimed the
Castellis had stolen their logo. Thanks to Roanoke
Times columnist, Dan Casey, and a personal trip by
TheRoanoker.com

Castelli's mother, Joyce, to look Del's lawyers in the
eye and tell them what's what, Del's surrendered their
claim and left Deb's alone.
When asked to share what makes her frozen
lemonade so special (without giving away any family
secrets, of course), she just smiles, shakes her head and
says almost apologetically, "No." She says she wasn't
even privy to the family recipe-brought through Ellis
Island in 1918 with her Italian grandparents-until
years after the store was opened. It is kept (more literal
cliché lingo) under lock and key.
"When my dad passed, my mom got in the lock box
and-I don't know if he did this before he got sick
or after-but there was this note with the recipe..."
Castelli pauses to try and maintain her composure. "It
said, 'I love you, Dad.'"
Deb's has added pretzels, a build-your-own hot dog
station, cookies and, most recently, popcorn to her
simple menu options. But really, it's about the frozen
lemonade. One slurp and all the nostalgia of county fairs
on muggy summer days comes rushing through. Deb's
frozen lemonade is the best kind of reminder that truly,
the best things in life are-no, not free-rather simple,
delicious and some form of sweet.
After 41 years of operating Deb's Frozen Lemonade,
Castelli says she thinks about retirement, but also knows
it's what gets her out of bed every morning.
"I've never done anything else," she says. "The kids
from my decades past keep coming back. They come
visit me, they invite me to their baby showers. I don't
have kids. Those are my kids. I love 'em."

Deb's Frozen
Lemonade

3009 Brambleton Ave SW
Roanoke, Virginia 24015
(540) 772-1530
facebook.com/
debsfrozenlemonade/
Hours:
M-Sat: 10AM-8PM
Sun: 12PM-7PM
A couple notes:
In true simple fashion,
Deb's Frozen Lemonade
is a CASH ONLY
establishment. Follow
Deb's Frozen Lemonade
on Facebook to find
out when a Deb's truck
will be near you.

JULY/AUGUST 2018

101


http://www.facebook.com/ http://www.TheRoanoker.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Roanoker - July/August 2018

The Roanoker - July/August 2018 - Intro
The Roanoker - July/August 2018 - Cover1
The Roanoker - July/August 2018 - Cover2
The Roanoker - July/August 2018 - 3
The Roanoker - July/August 2018 - 4
The Roanoker - July/August 2018 - 5
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The Roanoker - July/August 2018 - 101
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The Roanoker - July/August 2018 - 105
The Roanoker - July/August 2018 - 106
The Roanoker - July/August 2018 - Cover3
The Roanoker - July/August 2018 - Cover4
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