Controlling Big Gay Ice Cream: How the Rainbow Became Its Brand

Even so, by 2017, the brand was strong enough to earn a coveted place in supermarket freezers, with pints sold nationally at stores like Safeway, Wawa and CVS.

Mr. Quint was walking his dog when his sister first sent a photograph of the pints at the market in his rural hometown. He packed the car and drove straight to Maine. “I had to see it with my own eyes,” he said. Then, he said, he went to the dumpster out back and cried for the miserable gay teenager who had fled to New York to study music in 1989.

“I ran from this place when I was 17,” he said. “I could never have imagined ending up back here.”

But in 2020, with the stores closed indefinitely under lockdown, Mr. Quint says he was forced to move out of New York, taking a minimum-wage job at a CVS. In 2021, the flagship store in the East Village closed; soon after, the company was evicted from its shops in the West Village and Philadelphia. (For the West Village store alone, the back rent owed was nearly $400,000, according to court documents.)

Without his knowledge, he said, federal loan money was flowing in while judgments and summonses were piling up on the doorstep of his unoccupied apartment. “What we didn’t realize is that creative control is meaningless, if the money is all up to someone else.”

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