Old Scratch Pizza offers free ice cream cones — for a cause

Old Scratch Pizza offers free ice cream with a twist.

Well, two twists, if you count the dipsy-doodle swirl at the top of the soft-serve ice cream cone.

The independent pizza restaurant at 812 S. Patterson Blvd. in Dayton offers a “Cones for a Cause” program in which every day, the restaurant offers ice cream cones for free, while accepting voluntary donations that are collected and donated to a different local charity each month.

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In March, for example, Cones for a Cause raised more than $1,800 for the House of Bread, a Dayton-based charity that provides hot lunches 365 days a year to those in need. This month's recipient is Oak Tree Corner, which supports children and teens grieving from the loss of a loved one.

“When opening the restaurant, I was exploring ideas for a few things, namely dessert and becoming a stronger member of the community,” Old Scratch founder Eric Soller said. “I knew that ice cream was something I was interested in, and that soft-serve ice cream was where I wanted to focus.

“I had been to a Mexican restaurant in Texas that had a free, self serve ice cream machine in the restaurant. My kids loved it. That idea of providing free soft serve ice cream morphed into the idea we have today for Cones for a Cause. Allowing donations for ice cream is really just a way of channeling the good will of our customers into deserving charities in the area.

“And customers are excited to give. Since we have been open we have raised over $6,000, with every month exceeding the month before.”

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The restaurant, across South Patterson Boulevard from Grismer Tire near Miami Valley Hospital, is owned and operated by Soller and his wife Stephanie Soller of Oakwood. The couple met while both were attending (and later graduating) from the New England Culinary Institute.

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The 6,000-square-foot, 125-seat pizzeria and beer hall offers communal seating and a casual, open environment. It features a variety of craft beers on tap, wine and craft cocktails.

Eric Soller served as operations manager for Dayton-based Solganik Food Group for six years until 2006, and has managed hotel and catering kitchens in Oregon, Michigan and Colorado.

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