Fans create a throwback ice cream parlor

CHARLOTTE – X-tra Ball is tucked away in the Bi-Lo shopping center with an immaculate storefront. It’s a throwback to the old-school ice cream parlor with contemporary twists.
The 1980s play a large role in the décor, from the font on the front sign to the posters on the wall to the Trivial Pursuit cards on random tables. And pinball.
Pinball looms large in the both the name and the vibe of the place.
“We wanted a place where families could come and interact with each other,” coowner Michael Fan said. “And we wanted it to be in our community.”
Owners Michael and Baoding
Fan have lived in the Mountain Island area since 2007.
Both loved comic books and gaming and had to drive a long distance to find any sort of specialty store.
So in 2010, they opened Spandex City in the Callabridge Commons shopping area. In 2013, they moved to store to the Bi-Lo shopping center for a larger area,
brighter space and better traffic pattern.
Immediately, they began eyeing the vacant space directly across the street.
“We always wanted to run an oldschool ice cream parlor,” Michael Fan explained. “And this area didn’t have anything like it, so we decided to open one up.”
The space used to be a Curves and the Fans completely renovated it.
“We had to tear out a lot of purple,” Boading Fan said, laughing. “We redid the place and made it our own.”
There is a long ice cream case and separate counters to pay and receive your treat. Tables and chairs are neatly placed throughout and five pinball machines line the far wall.
“I just love pinball, and you can’t play it authentically just anywhere,” Michael Fan said. “It’s not something that can be played as a video game. Plus it’s social.”
The couple follows a traditional approach to their ice cream, as well.
“We did a lot of research,” Michael Fan said. “And we went with Hershey ice cream due to its high milk-fat, low percentage of air and a fun mix of traditional and contemporary flavors.”
The ice cream is truly decadent with a creamy, rich texture. One to try is the peanut butter cookie dough with caramel.
But the vanilla and chocolate are also excellent in their simplicity. Every ice cream cone is served in a waffle cone.
“We want our standard product to be premium,” Michael Fan said.
They do not have sundaes or soft-serve available, but do offer some interesting options. Try a Spinner, which is a traditional ice cream float (think root beer float), mixed in a blender. “Every sip is the perfect blend,” Michael Fan said.
And it’s true.
The Spinners are also made with natural sodas from Boylans, which contain real cane sugar, not high fructose corn syrup.
“We really try to stay away from trans fats, artificial colors and flavors,” Michael Fan said. “We want families to indulge and still be eating real food.”
There are smoothies with all real ingredients and coffee drinks with ice cream and even a sampler called the Multi Ball, which is a pinball term.
A customer can get up to three different kinds of ice cream in a bowl – perfect for people who have trouble making a decision.
The Fans are big supporters in the community, sponsoring a Coul-Oak softball team, donating to local school auctions and donating to the Make-a-Wish Foundation and Classroom Central.
They also have fun events at the store, such as pinball tournaments and ice cream specials. A party room in the back includes ice cream and unlimited pinball.
The Fans have worked hard to create a family-centric entertainment venue right here in Mountain Island.
“We want to help prop up the entire community with wholesome activities and excellent ice cream,” Michael Fan said.

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