The Hobby Horse Ice Cream Parlor on Ocean Avenue in downtown Ocean City has a very distinct look - like an old-fashioned carousel.

Out front is an iconic carousel horse, with the carousel theme running throughout the business.

While the décor is inviting, people come back for the premier ice cream and treats, said Hobby Horse owner Marc Dukeman, 47, of Ocean City.

"People make it a destination," said Dukeman. "They'll drive here from other areas. People come up from Cape May, Sea Isle City, all over. Everything's upscale, quality. Real Oreo cookies, real peanut butter cups. There's no substitutes."

Dukeman, who had been in the beverage industry, opened the ice cream business in 1993. The business expanded several years later, getting larger and adding café elements including cappuccinos, frozen drinks, and homemade desserts, he said.

A seasonal business, the Hobby Horse is open from May to October.

Dukeman said its central location brings a mix of foot traffic, bicycles and vehicles.

"We're busy here. It's nonstop," he said. "There's a lot of hotels around here, people get takeout, they walk here ... I've had people stay here (in town) a week and they're here every night."

Dukeman works at the business with family members. His mother makes some of the homemade desserts, such as the chocolate-dipped peanut butter balls. Including family, there are about a dozen employees.

Some sundaes are named after family members, and one is named after Dukeman: Marc's Mega Sundae, which has five scoops of ice cream.

In the summertime ice cream business in Ocean City, there is not much room for down time.

Customers come at all times - for a treat during a break from the beach; when it rains and beachgoers look for something indoors; or after-dinner crowds and late-night Boardwalk walkers, he said.

The Hobby Horse Ice Cream Parlor has seating inside for about 50 people, as well as an outdoor seating area.

Take-out orders make up a big chunk of business, he said.

A wide selection is an important part of the ice cream business.

Dukeman says he carries 47 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream, as well as frozen custard, water ice, and an assortment of wet and dry toppings.

Red bean, ginger and pumpkin all have been on the list of exotic flavors.

But in terms of sheer volume, Dukeman said there is one unrivaled flavor: vanilla.

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