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Clarification appended

Thirty-three years after Philadelphia firefighter Bob Tumolo opened his first water ice stand and 25 years after the franchise first introduced soft-serve custard, Rita’s is branching into something new:

Hand-scooped custard. Yes, the “hard” stuff, similar to the scoops served at Bassetts or Haagen Daaz.

It’s a big change for the brand, and it’s happening this week. The new concept, called “Rita’s Italian Ice & Creamery,” these stores will have an expanded menu that complements the new scoops.

Customers will be able to build their own sundaes with the hard custard or have it in a made-to-order sandwich on a fresh-baked waffle or brownie or cookie. There’s also a new take on the super-popular “Gelati” parfait. In the “Cool Combo,” it’s hand-scooped custard that will be layered in with the water ice instead of soft-serve custard. There are 35 different flavors of scoopable custard in all, and they’ll rotate in and out at each location, just like the dozens of flavors of water ice — or, as the company blasphemously calls it, Italian ice.

To start, there will only be 10 creamery locations across Rita’s 30-state footprint. Two are already open, but none near Philly. The closest one will be in Furlong, Bucks County, with a target launch of early 2018.

Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

You can get a discounted taste of the regular soft-serve custard on Tuesday, Aug. 8 (which happens to be National Custard Day) — a swirl in a cup or a cone for just 99 cents.

Although the Rita’s brand is most-closely associated with water ice, chief marketing officer Phyllis Savar Levy said in a statement, “[f]rozen custard has been at the core of our business since it was added to our menu.”

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Danya Henninger

Danya Henninger is director of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the...