Teen worker harassed at ice cream shop, forcing it to close day after return amid pandemic

"Everybody's been in their cages. All of the sudden the zookeeper opened the gates, and the animals run out," the Cape Cod shop's owner said of customers.

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

A popular Cape Cod, Massachusetts, ice cream shop was forced to close just one day after reopening because customers verbally harassed and cursed at a teenage employee, the store's owner said.

"Everybody's been in their cages. All of the sudden the zookeeper opened the gates, and the animals run out, and the first thing the animals do is go after its prey. And a 17-year-old young girl bringing you ice cream is a pretty easy target to rant your mouth on," Mark Lawrence, the owner of Polar Cave Ice Cream in Mashpee, Massachusetts, told NBC Boston.

Lawrence wrote on Facebook that the shop was "overwhelmed" when it reopened Friday, and people weren't adhering to social distancing rules.

"There's a commotion over at the window here, with a lady — well, a female, she's not a lady — standing out over there, yelling and screaming at one of my girls in the window," Lawrence said.

The woman wasn't the only one though. "How disgusting people, numerous people, were to her. F-bombs were dropping like snowflakes," Lawrence said. He said that the girl was called "the 'C-word'" at one point.

"Regardless of peoples frustrations to take it out on a teenage girl is simply WRONG," Lawrence wrote on Facebook. "In order to not destroy the business, I have grown for the past 19 years, it is best to not open to the general public for the time being."

"In 19 years of operation this is the lowest feeling I have ever felt," he added.

Lawrence said the employee, who had been working at the ice cream shop for three years to save money for college, finished her entire shift, and then quit. When Lawrence asked her why she hadn't told him of the verbal abuse earlier in the day, "she simply said she didn't want to disappoint me or our loyal fans."

"No one deserves this kind of abuse, especially a 17-year-old young girl, in a time when we as a country should stand united," Lawrence said. He set up a GoFundMe account for the girl's college fund, which has since raised nearly $40,000.

Polar Cave Ice Cream has started serving people by appointment only, which Lawrence said is "a vastly improved operation."

"We will continue to tweak our efforts and eventually try again to open full speed ahead," Lawrence said. "There is no road map to follow. Years of being in business, no one has ever had to go through anything like this. ... What works for one business well might be a complete failure at another."