The long lines are forming at Banana Boat which is no surprise for the popular ice cream stand that is in its 43rd year at its location at the corner of Beach Street and Ocean Avenue.
Sisters Avri Schena and Amora Schena Callahan have been running the business since 1994. Their parents, Ann Schena and Anthony Schena, founded the stand in 1977.
“It’s always been a family business,” said Amora proudly. “When our parents passed away, my sister and I took over. We’ve had four generations of women here: Ann Schena, Avri and Amora Schena, Anessa Schena, and Alivia Recupero.
Amora’s two children, Ayla Callahan (Roger Williams University) and Victor Callahan (Clemson University) worked at Banana Boat through high school and college.
Due to the coronavirus, Banana Boat opened later than usual this year (on May 19). The pandemic has affected the business.
“First we were able to do curbside so we did that for about three weeks or so,” said Amora. “Then they allowed us to open a window. We’re only allowed to open two windows now, as opposed to four or five.”
The changes have led to a slightly longer wait for customers wanting their delicious Hood ice cream cones, sundaes, frappes, milk shakes, yogurt, and of course, the store’s signature banana boats.
“We have one line for customers on Ocean Avenue but we are devoting two workers to every customer,” said Avri. “We hope to put out our picnic tables in the next phase.”
The late Ann Schena came up with the name, Banana Boat. “We named our banana boat, “Ann’s World-Famous Banana Boat,’’’ said Amora.
“And we’ve had people come from Switzerland and all over the world to enjoy a banana boat,” said Avri.
Bostonians are known for their love of ice cream all year round. But June, July, and August are the best months, according to the Schena sisters.
Said Ward 2 Councillor and ice cream connoisseur Ira Novoselsky about the legendary ice cream palace, “Banana Boat is a great family-run business. It wouldn’t be summer on Revere Beach without regular visits to Banana Boat for some delicious treats.”
Praising their wonderful employees
Avri and Amora haven employed hundreds of Revere students through the years, a veritable ‘who’s who’ of superb athletes including such current notables as Jenna Wells, Emily DiGiulio, Zach Bowden, and Yophee Ek.
“We really want to say our employees are wonderful,” agreed Avri and Amora. “Everybody that works here has been terrific through this health crisis. They’ve been working extra days and extra hours for us and they have been outstanding. And they’re all great kids – they’re nice, respectful and pleasant. Some of them have been with us 5-6 years. We are a family.”