“Ice Cream Mike”: Whatever He Did, He Did For His Secaucus

“Ice Cream Mike”: Whatever He Did, He Did For His Secaucus

The McDonald brothers — Richard and Maurice — may have created the world’s most famous burger but it was Ray Kroc who became a global legend by franchising it.

Similarly, Michael J. Flaherty never got credit for inventing the Oreo ice cream, according to people in his town, who say he created the confection in the 1970s with original Oreo cookies from the Nabisco cookie factory. 

But that was okay for “Ice Cream Mike”, as he was known, for whatever he did, he did it for his Secaucus.

For more than 50 years, Mike was the ultimate ice cream man of Secaucus, a New Jersey suburb some five miles away from Manhattan. 

Using secret recipes honed from his sheer love for two things — ice cream and his town — Mike made thousands of tubs of exotic flavors such as Oreo Smash, Crumb Cake, Banana Creme Pie, Coffee Nutella, Coconut Almond Fudge, Devildog, Dusty Road and Witches Brew. The last, created from pumpkin puree and Oreo, was a seasonal hit, made exclusively for fall and Halloween.

“The reason people always say our butter pecan is so good is because we use an old German bakery recipe that calls for real butterscotch,” Mike said in a 2022 story run by Secaucus Patch, the town’s chronicler. 

Mike said his pistachio ice cream was also deemed good “because we use this hard-to-find almond essence”.

A Secaucus Department of Works employee said in that article that what Mike knew about ice cream was “scary”. 

According to the person, Mike “actually knows how much air is added by the machine as the ice cream is being churned, and he can tell you how that affects profitability.”

Mike churning out ice cream at his store (Picture courtesy of Sarah Bridget)

A Hit At Home … And Away

While Mike’s frosty delights never left Secaucus, they were remembered thousands of miles away by those lucky enough to have had a taste. 

“My guests from all over the US and India will ask ‘When are we going to Mike’s?’ each time they’re in Secaucus,” said Alka Jaideep, a longtime resident of the town. 

“The tradition used to be that we’d go for dinner, return to park at my place, then take a nice, leisurely walk up Paterson Plank Road for a taste of what could only be Mike’s Ice Cream.”

Even news of Mike’s passing — on Feb. 23, 2024, a month after his 71st birthday — came to some in Secaucus from fans far away. 

Said Sarah Bridget, mother of a Secaucus teen who used to work for the ice cream legend: “We were setting up a makeshift memorial outside his store, when a lady turned up and said ‘I didn’t even know he had passed away until a friend of mine in California told me’.”

A young employee assists Mike (Picture courtesy of Sarah Bridget)

Ice Cream Maker And First Employer For Many

Mike didn’t just own Secaucus’ first ice cream parlor; he was also the first employer for many in town, offering them jobs while they were still in school. 

Sarah, whose daughter Amaya worked for Mike from the time she was 14 through 19, told JustNeverForget:

“The general sense is that almost everyone in Secaucus had their first job with him. Mike likes to give jobs to kids before they get to high school, as he gets a good four to five years out of them before they go to college.” 

In a Facebook post made a day after his passing, Sarah poured her heart out about the man she described as “the kindest soul with the purest intentions, always”.  

“There will never be another like him – a legend in our community and a gem in our hearts,” she wrote. “Decades in business and it wasn’t to turn a profit. It was for his genuine love of people and community. Bringing friends and families together with his Oreo Smash or Witches Brew brought him joy. Giving countless children the opportunity to learn and grow with him made him happy.”

A True Son Of Secaucus

Tributes to Mike from his town folk on the window of his store (Picture – justneverforget.com)
A young Secaucus resident reads the tributes for Mike (Picture – justneverforget.com)

On Facebook, love flowed freely for Mike from all of Secaucus, with people calling him a true son of the town and a piece of its staple or history.

“When I was pregnant 48 years ago, he would call me to let me know that he just made Rocky Road ice cream because I craved it,” Lucy Guarracino Vaccarella recalled in a post about Mike.

Philip Congilose took Facebook readers back to Mike’s first ice-cream venture — a Dairy Queen franchise along Secaucus’ Route 3, before the eponymous store on Paterson Plank Road. “I remember all the girls in high school wanted a job there,” he wrote. “It was considered the hottest job for teen girls.” 

Michael Germinario, in his Facebook post, remembered that part of his childhood involved “walking up to the ice cream parlor in the summertime and getting a cup or cone”.

Celeste Schwerdtfeger reminisced about Mike’s many ice cream flavors, saying in her post: “Your Oreo smash was my favorite of all time!! (and I’m) your biggest fan for 48 years.

“You were a wonderful man with a great heart,” she added.

Raj Pardasani, one of the most vocal proponents of Secaucus on social media, called Mike “a great champion of noble causes” who “will be deeply missed” by the town.

Sarah’s daughter Amaya — among the most senior of Mike’s employees at the time of his passing — concurred with those descriptions. She described her ex-boss as “super selfless”, adding:

“Every time we went in to work, he would always be trying to feed us. He used to give us each $50 on Christmas. And he was never in it for the money. He just wanted to make people smile.”

How It All Began

In 1969 — the year NASA dropped the first man on the moon — 16-year-old Mike decided to do something momentous too: Drop out of school and start a business.

An undated picture of Mike from a Secaucus school year book

The teen entrepreneur desired to start an ice cream store, but lacked both the experience and age for it.

“He needed his Dad to sign a consent for him to acquire the Dairy Queen franchise because he was underage,” said Amaya’s mother Sarah, who was privy to some of Mike’s history due to her daughter’s work with him.

Philip Congilose, who had commented about Mike’s Dairy Queen franchise on Secaucus’ Route 3 being the “hottest” workplace for teen girls, also remembers “there were issues” there and that Mike eventually “lost the place”. 

But Mike was also “able to rebound”, Philip recalled.


Mike’s first ice cream venture — a Dairy Queen franchise — on Route 3, straddling Secaucus (Picture by Heather Delaney)
A younger Mike offering a taste of his ice cream (Picture courtesy of Sarah Bridget)

That rebound culminated with him starting his own brand name — Mike’s Ice Cream — at 1540 Paterson Plank Road.

“All the ice-cream at his store was home made, from his own personal recipes,” recalled Sarah. “And he had huge appetite for community work, supporting all the kids’ functions, clubs and organizations. He was always happy to do fund-raisers. He did it for the school. He did it for my daughter’s volleyball team. He did it for the animal shelter. And he was a big supporter of the fire department.”


Mike’s evolution over the years as Secaucus’ ultimate ice cream brand (Pictures courtesy of Sarah Bridget)

Town Hero To TikTok Star

Along the way, something else happened: Mike became a TikTok sensation.

How that happened is related in detail in the Secaucus Patch story, which also had Mike’s comments on what made his butter pecan and pistachio ice cream stand out versus the competition.

The TikTok buzz was created by a food reviewer called Kingschratz, who wrote in a June 2022 post that “from now on, if you want me to review ice cream, it better be ice cream like this.” He gave his verdict after tasting Mike’s Chocolate Oreo, Coffee-Nutella and Witch’s Brew. He said he did the review to find out what was so great about Mike’s, which already had a 4.9-star rating on Google.

Kingschratz’s video on Mike’s was viewed more than two million times. 

It practically caused the ice cream to fly off the store’s shelves.

Long lines started forming outside the store after the review went online on a Friday, remembers Mike, who first had no idea what was going on — until his teenage employees told him they had gone viral on TikTok.

Mike later told Secaucus Patch writer Carly Baldwin that “we haven’t had business like this since we were located on Route 3”, referring to his original Dairy Queen location. To give an idea of what that meant, he said:

“We made 30 tubs of ice cream (that) Saturday, and by Sunday, they were all completely empty.”

“So many of the people, not even just the teens, tell me they saw the TikTok video and had to come. We’ve been watching the comments people left and so many of the commenters are writing, ‘Where is this ice cream shop located?’” 

Loved Till The End

The makeshift memorial set up by Secaucus folk outside his store (Pictures by justneverforget.com)

But like all great stories, Mike’s had to come to an end too.

For years, he had suffered from diabetics and was in and out of hospital.

Since July 2023, however, he had his longest spell of seven to eight months in bed, either warded or in rehab all the time.

“The five to seven kids who were working for Mike did everything for him then, from opening and closing the store to making the ice cream and the daily schedule, while he approved everything from his bed,” recalled Amaya’s mother Sarah.

Those who knew of Mike’s condition were praying for him till the end; his demise, thus, was hard, especially for his young employees, said Sarah.

“These kids absolutely adored Mike, he was literally like a grandfather to them,” she said. “They are looking to do some sort of memorial for him during the spring school break.”


* Note to readers: If you wish to say something about Mike, kindly do so in our comments field below. Help us preserve Mike’s legacy by sharing your thoughts right here, besides Facebook or other social media where this tribute appears.






  1. Delaney

    this is a lovely article that touched my heart; so beautiful to see Mike get the attention he deserved from his endless acts of charity and compassion.

  2. Gail Bartoszek-Menist

    I worked at Mike’s Ice Cream in the mid 70’s when I was old enough to get my working papers. This was when he was on Route 3 and it was originally a Dairy Queen and then he changed over to Mike’s Ice Cream. I worked there for several years with several life long friends and to this day when we get together we always reminisce about those times and Mike. He always took care of the team and looked out for us. This was my first real job and I’m happy to have worked there. When Mike’s closed on Route 3 and he eventually took over Uncle D’s on Paterson Plank Road and changed the name to Mike’s Ice Cream, I knew that great tasting ice cream was back. By then I had moved out of town but my husband and I would come back to town just for Mike’s. He will be missed and his legacy lives on. 🍦💔

  3. Maria campbell

    Love reading this, Mike was such a great soul!

  4. Carol

    That was a beautiful tribute to Mike. (thank you for posting) And thank you Mike for all you have done. You will be missed. Rest in peace. ❤️🙏🏻❤️

  5. Tam Tran

    Such a Great men & beautiful soul ! May he rest in peace 🙏 he will forever be missed !

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