A good scam requires three parts: A sneaky culprit, accomplices who don't mind a little white lie or two, and an easy catch.
Throw in Haven Stroble's love for a butter pecan "concrete" with extra butterscotch from Rock Hill's PW's Ice Cream, and add in that the scoundrel who started this caper wanted to ask Stroble to marry him and had already spent the rent for the next year on the 1.2 carat diamond ring. What evolved is the perfect hustle.
A couple years ago, Rock Hill native Chris Miller, 24, met Stroble, 21, when he was working in Greenville and she was a student at USC-Upstate. They would often visit his hometown, and almost every time they would go to PW's. A date tradition, hand holding and moon-eyes over extra butterscotch. Every time she ordered the same thing.
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The couple talked about the future but Miller wanted to pop the question in style. After all, he had to top his father's proposal of hanging the ring on his mother's family Christmas tree for her to find all those years ago.
Miller had a dream the proposal came at PW's. So Miller got Phil and Wayne Holmes from PW's, and his parents, Allan and Rovenia Miller, involved in frozen chicanery.
Stroble, still in school and working, too, had plans to meet Miller, who now lives in Fayetteville, N.C., in Rock Hill for the July 4 holiday. A plot was hatched to put the ring into the ice cream July 3.
The PW's guys would slide the ring onto the plastic spoon handle, and deliver the ice cream to the unsuspecting Stroble at one of the outside tables. A PW's worker would replace "Will You Buy A Heart Shaped Cake Today" on the marquee with "Will You Marry Me Haven."
"A great idea," Rovenia Miller said of her son's plot.
Rovenia Miller dropped the ring off at the ice cream stand, then she and her husband lurked in the shadows with a camera. But like all nefariousness, roadblocks jumped out at Chris Miller.
For the first time ever on July 3, Haven Stroble didn't want a butter pecan concrete with extra butterscotch.
"I was starving, and wanted to eat first," she said.
So Miller had to improvise on the fly.
He ordered her ice cream anyway.
Stroble was by now, in her words, "a little ill with Chris."
"She said she wasn't going to eat it, but there was no turning back," Miller said.
The PW's guys in on the scam claimed the machine to mix the concrete needed time to work, so they offered to deliver the ice cream rather than hand it over at the counter.
The couple sat with some friends. Stroble stewed as her stomach rumbled, while a sneaky worker changed the sign. Miller stuck his face inches from Stroble to hide the sign. Other customers by now were staring at the sign and gawking like tourists.
"Oh no, don't blow it," Miller recalled thinking of those unknowing strangers.
Another worker brought out the concrete and handed it to Miller.
Miller snuck around behind Stroble and the knee bent like it must.
"Will you marry me?" came the million dollar question. Or the $3 and some cents question, because that's what a butter pecan concrete with extra butterscotch costs.
"Caught her totally off guard," Miller said.
Stroble gulped out a "Yes!" and hugged her man. Still, she didn't see the ring.
Finally, Stroble pulled the spoon from the ice cream and Miller slid the diamond on the third finger, next to the pinky on her left hand.
"Surprised, totally," Stroble said. "Worth it, too."
No wedding date is set, but marriage will likely come late next year after she finishes school.
The couple stayed in town through the weekend. Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, the engaged lovebirds went to PW's on Herlong Avenue.
Haven Stroble, soon to be Haven Miller, ordered a butter pecan concrete with extra butterscotch three evenings in a row. She ate every bite.