By Bailey Wright
CHESHIRE — Some construction, ice cream making, and counting cows were just a few of the tasks on Sweet Claude’s Ice Cream owners’ list this week as they prepared for Friday’s season opening.
The longtime ice cream shop, at 828 S. Main St., will be open again on Friday, Feb. 28, from noon to 9 p.m. They closed for the 2019 season on Dec. 26.
A late February opening is usual for the shop which makes all its ice cream, and most ingredients, in-house.
“The groundhog might be the nation's sign, but we are the town’s sign that spring is coming,” said co-owner Stephanie Clason.
She said opening is an exciting time but it can be hectic getting everything ready. There’s always something new to deal with too- this year just happened to be a broken front cooler (where the ice cream gets scooped from), hence the necessary construction.
“You never know what's around the corner, so this was our little hiccup, but we have a solution and we have great people, thank goodness,” Clason said.
Due to the replacement cooler being smaller than the usual one, co-owner Kelly Anne Pearce— who primarily makes the ice cream— has tackled building a podium-like structure which will be a new addition to the front counter space and new home to the cash register.
Clason said the first weekend of the season is usually busy with regulars, especially if the sun is out.
The shop announced the opening date on its Facebook page and received support and excitement from customers online. In previous years, before social media, a sign outside the building was the only announcement.
“We really do have so many regulars ... there's like this whole community that kind of comes together and looks forward to it,” Clason said.
The first “flavor of the week” will be Almond Joy, which is coconut ice cream with almonds, fudge and pieces of the Almond Joy candy throughout.
Customers can expect their usual favorites, plus some new non-dairy additions this year.
The shop has been doing sorbet, sugar-free and soy-based for years, but just started experimenting with almond milk last year. Pearce said other non-dairy options, like coconut milk, are on the list to try this year.
Customers can also get Sweet Claude’s Ice Cream at Perfectly Prepared, Gourmet to Go!, a food to-go business out of Cheshire. Pearce said they hope to do more wholesales in the future.
Pearce and Clason said they want people to know that they really are trying their hardest to put out the best possible product for their customers. With the recent significant and rapid decline in dairy farming across the country, overhead costs have increased.
“We're here for you and we're here to give you the best quality and everything that we do here is towards that purpose,” Pearce assured customers.
Although they make everything in-house, Sweet Claude’s does not have cows on the premises, not even upstairs, which most kids seem to think.
Instead, the cows they are counting are the ones found all throughout the shop in photos, paintings and various-size figurines. The cow collection started years ago and has steadily grown to around 60 or 70, by Pearce’s guess.
Over those years, they’ve lost track of the actual number, but have been meaning to count the cows again to have an actual number for when customers inevitably ask again this season.
>under<>bold<Other seasonal ice cream shops opening soon: >res<>under<
Pat’s Main Street Ice Cream in Southington will open this weekend, Feb. 28 - March 1
Rita’s Italian Ice in Southington will open Friday, Feb. 28
Dari Serve in Durham plans to open March 20, weather permitting
Les’ Dairy Bar in Meriden plans to open sometime mid-March