The Turtle Twist
(Video by Margo Wilson)
By Scott Beveridge,
CANONSBURG, Pa. – Jim and Colleen Tatano weren't looking to become owners of a quirky roadside attraction when they went shopping for the tools to sell ice cream.
That all changed after the couple stumbled across a 28-foot-tall replica of an ice cream cone for sale on eBay.
"It was pure luck that we came up with the building," said Jim Tatano, 50, outside the giant cone he and relatives relocated to Route 980 in Canonsburg five years ago.
"Once I saw the building as a marketing plan, it's kind of taking on a different attitude," said Colleen Tatano, 46.
The couple hopes it becomes a popular destination for people who prefer custard over soft ice cream that is typically sold in the region.
And thanks to a listing on the popular RoadsideAmerica.com that catalogs odd tourist destinations, their Turtle Twist building has become almost as famous as Canonsburg's Perry Como statue.
Almost as impressive, a group of local kids recently produced a video of the business in the form of a commercial that has garnered 199 views on YouTube.
The Fiberglass building dating to the 1980s was part of a small chain of ice cream stands in Florida known as Twisty Treats that went bankrupt.
The Tatanos' building ended up in a New York park with miniature golf and bumper cars until that business was leveled for a strip mall.
It came to Canonsburg in 23 pieces, and with a cherry atop the cone that was replaced with a 3-foot turtle.
"There are a lot of turtles in the family," explains Colleen Tatano, a graduate of the University of Maryland, whose mascot is a diamondback turtle. Her husband has an uncle with the nickname Turtle.
They chose to sell custard because they fell in love over the richer form of ice cream while dating at the beach, Jim Tatano said.
"We've had 20 years of marriage," he said. "This is our third child."
"Sort of," his wife responds.
She said they thought the business would become a destination, even though it's in a semi-rural area.
"It is turning into a trip for people," she said. "They are coming for the custard."