Can an ice cream shop keep White Street from nodding off early?

We’ll find out starting in about a month, when Ben & Jerry’s opens for business at 68 White, in the space formerly occupied by the Beacon Fine Arts Gallery.

It’s an arrival with the potential to noticeably alter the nighttime flow of both foot and auto traffic downtown. Not that there’s tumbleweed blowing down the street, but we’re talking about a block that’s close to dead most nights.

During the day, Cigars Plus, Dunlap Locksmith, Mayfair House, Toymasters and Hobbymasters attract their particular clientele. At night, though, most of those businesses are closed, and the action on White is pretty much limited to the stretch between the Clearview Cinemas and Broad Street.

The B&J’s location is just a few doors west of the movie theater and opposite the White Street parking lot, where many moviegoers park their cars, so it’s well sited to grab that flow. It’s also close enough to all the main thoroughfares—Broad, Monmouth and West Front streets, and Maple Avenue—that only chronic whiners will complain that it’s too far from the center of things. Parking should certainly be less of a problem than it is on or near Broad.

redbankgreen asked Hobbymasters proprietor Arlene Placer what she thought about having Ben & Jerry’s as a neighbor. “We’ll be there every day,” says Placer, who with her staff still misses a long-gone ice cream shop that was located next door. And its impact on White Street business? Can’t hurt, Placer says, but it’s not a sure thing, either. White Street “is very different as a retail center,” she says. “It’s not Broad Street.”

It’s not likely to become another Broad Street, either. But if B&J can find a place among the competition for frozen-dessert customers—it’ll be up against Haagen-Dazs and Cold Stone Creamery on Broad, not to mention Strollo’s Lighthouse on North Bridge Avenue, among others—it could change the way merchants view White. And who knows what that might lead to?

Hey, not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but this could even be a litmus test for the viability of the street-level retail proposed for the now-shelved-but-never-really-dead parking garage. You know the one: merchants have been clamoring for years for it to be built right there on the White Street municipal lot.

Then again, maybe it’s just a double scoop of Chunky Monkey in a sugar cone…