Gifford’s Ice Cream grandson details child abuse in memoir

WASHINGTON — His grandfather founded the Washington area’s beloved Gifford’s Ice Cream and Candy shops, but Andrew Gifford’s life story is sickening, not sweet.

In his gut-wrenching new memoir “We All Scream: The Fall of the Gifford’s Ice Cream Empire,” Gifford reveals for the first time that he was mentally and physically abused.

“It’s hard to be the child of that abuse, and have everyone say how amazing and wonderful these people who abused you are,” Gifford told WTOP.

In the book, he details bloody beatings at the hands of his mother Barbara, signs that both his parents were mentally ill and alcoholic, and numerous cruel pranks they would pull on him.

When Gifford was just 5 years old, one joke his parents orchestrated at Deep Creek Lake left him with a lifelong fear of water.

Gifford was also abandoned, he said, by his Harvard-educated father Robert, who became company president in 1980 after Andrew’s grandparents had both passed away.

In 1985, Robert Gifford disappeared, along with all of the company’s money, estimated at about $2 million.

He later emerged in Atlanta to sue his son over an inheritance from Andrew’s mother, who had died in a 1999 car crash. (The suit was thrown out. Robert died in 2007.)

As a result, after almost 50 years in business, Gifford’s Ice Cream and Candy shops closed.

Robert Gifford remained missing, completely off the grid, for 15 long years.

Andrew Gifford is pictured with father Robert in 1984. (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
Andrew Gifford is pictured with father Robert, who later abandoned the family. (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford) (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
Gifford's Ice Cream's Silver Spring location is shown in this 1938 photo. The chain was a local institution for nearly 50 years. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Gifford)
Gifford’s Ice Cream’s Silver Spring location is shown in this 1938 photo. The chain was a local institution for nearly 50 years. (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford) (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
In his book, Andrew Gifford details bloody beatings at the hands of his mother Barbara (left), signs that both his parents were mentally ill and alcoholic, and numerous cruel pranks they would pull on him. (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
In his book, Andrew Gifford details bloody beatings at the hands of his mother Barbara (left), signs that both his parents were mentally ill and alcoholic, and numerous cruel pranks they would pull on him. (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford) (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
When Andrew Gifford was just 5 years old, he said, one joke his parents orchestrated at Deep Creek Lake left him with a lifelong fear of water.
When Andrew Gifford was just 5 years old, he said, one joke his parents orchestrated at Deep Creek Lake left him with a lifelong fear of water. (Photo couresty Andrew Gifford) (Photo couresty Andrew Gifford)
Andrew Gifford's grandfather John founded the beloved ice cream and candy shops in 1938. (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
Andrew Gifford’s grandfather John founded the beloved ice cream and candy shops in 1938. (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford) (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
Gifford's Ice Cream's Silver Spring location is shown in this 1938 photo. The chain was a local institution for nearly 50 years. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Gifford)
Gifford’s Ice Cream was a local institution for nearly 50 years. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Gifford) (Photo courtesy of Andrew Gifford)
The Gifford's chain closed in the mid-'80s after Andrew Gifford's father Robert disappeared (along with all of the company's money, estimated at about $2 million). (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
The Gifford’s chain closed in the mid-80s after Andrew Gifford’s father Robert disappeared (along with all of the company’s money, estimated at about $2 million). (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford) (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
Andrew Gifford is pictured in this Christmas 1986 photo, which was taken after he was abandoned by his father Robert, who became company president in 1980. (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
Andrew Gifford is pictured in this Christmas 1986 photo, which was taken after Robert abandoned the family. (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford) (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
Andrew Gifford was abandoned by his father Robert, who at the time was company president. (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
“It’s hard to be the child of that abuse, and have everyone say how amazing and wonderful these people who abused you are,” said Andrew Gifford (shown here with his father). (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford) (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
There's been talk for decades that secret recipes fueled Gifford's success, but Andrew discovered that Gifford's recipes are nothing special. 

Despite that, Gifford doesn't believe that the ice cream that made people smile for almost half a century can be replicated today. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Gifford)
There’s been talk for decades that secret recipes fueled Gifford’s success, but Andrew said he discovered that Gifford’s recipes are nothing special. Despite that, Gifford doesn’t believe that the ice cream that made people smile for almost half a century could be replicated today. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Gifford) (Photo courtesy of Andrew Gifford)
In his gut-wrenching new memoir “We All Scream: The Fall of the Gifford’s Ice Cream Empire,” Andrew Gifford reveals for the first time that he was mentally and physically abused.
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Andrew Gifford is pictured with father Robert in 1984. (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
Gifford's Ice Cream's Silver Spring location is shown in this 1938 photo. The chain was a local institution for nearly 50 years. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Gifford)
In his book, Andrew Gifford details bloody beatings at the hands of his mother Barbara (left), signs that both his parents were mentally ill and alcoholic, and numerous cruel pranks they would pull on him. (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
When Andrew Gifford was just 5 years old, he said, one joke his parents orchestrated at Deep Creek Lake left him with a lifelong fear of water.
Andrew Gifford's grandfather John founded the beloved ice cream and candy shops in 1938. (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
Gifford's Ice Cream's Silver Spring location is shown in this 1938 photo. The chain was a local institution for nearly 50 years. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Gifford)
The Gifford's chain closed in the mid-'80s after Andrew Gifford's father Robert disappeared (along with all of the company's money, estimated at about $2 million). (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
Andrew Gifford is pictured in this Christmas 1986 photo, which was taken after he was abandoned by his father Robert, who became company president in 1980. (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
Andrew Gifford was abandoned by his father Robert, who at the time was company president. (Photo courtesy Andrew Gifford)
There's been talk for decades that secret recipes fueled Gifford's success, but Andrew discovered that Gifford's recipes are nothing special. 

Despite that, Gifford doesn't believe that the ice cream that made people smile for almost half a century can be replicated today. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Gifford)

In addition, a trust fund set up for Andrew was eventually drained.

“I think my grandmother left a large amount in there, and Dad either took it or used it to run the company,” said Gifford.

But he thinks the motive for sabotaging the company was revenge, not money.

“I think Dad wanted to kill what remained of his parents. I think he was severely abused,” Gifford said.

Starting when he was 9 years old and continuing for about a year, Gifford said, his mother had him break open thermometers and carefully pour the mercury out.

She convinced him that it would be used to poison the ice cream at the company’s factory in Silver Spring, Maryland, where all of the product was made for all of the stores.

“I would smash these thermometers into little soup cans [and] we would take them to the store late at night. It would be like 9 or 10. And then she would take them and she would go inside and I would wait in the car,” Gifford said.

There’s no evidence that the ice cream was actually tainted; Gifford believes it was just another way for his mother to mess with his mind.

There’s been talk for decades that secret recipes fueled Gifford’s success, but Andrew said he discovered that Gifford’s recipes are nothing special.

“The more of these people I talked to who know how to make ice cream the more they said: ‘There’s nothing to ice cream. This is your recipe, and everyone’s using this recipe.'”

Despite continued attempts to do so, Gifford doesn’t believe that the ice cream that made people smile for almost half a century could be replicated today.

“I don’t think it can be brought back properly. I don’t think it should be,” he said.

The Gifford’s Ice Cream found in local supermarkets today originates from a totally unrelated Gifford’s family, based in Maine.


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