MERIDEN — In an unexpected twist, Les’ Dairy Bar will reopen for a 38th season later this year.
Owner Debra DiGiandomenico put off her plans to retire and sell the soft-serve business after she wasn’t able to reach a sale agreement, she announced on Facebook this week
“I made the decision to shake it off, and come back and OPEN for another season,” DiGiandomenico wrote in a post on Les’ Facebook page. “I will do my best to try and open in March, but I have my work cut out for me. I will continue to strive for the high-quality service and product at a fair price that you have come to know Les' for!”
In the post, DiGiandomenico detailed the various negotiation roadblocks that led to her decision.
After announcing her plans to retire on social media in July, she began negotiating with a prospective buyer and eventually reached an agreement, the post said. But DiGiandomenico decided to back out on Jan. 29 when the party, whom she didn’t identify, asked for “yet another concession.”
DiGiandomenico also began negotiating in September with an unnamed family who owned five corporate ice shops and was interested in owning a private store. The two sides had a final contract drawn up, however, the family walked late last year, “stating that living out of state, commuting and needing an apartment or house in Meriden, just wasn’t in the cards,” the Facebook post read.
“I really felt a need to explain (the decision to stay open),” DiGiandomenico said in an interview this week about her Facebook post. “Like I said, up until Jan. 29, I thought I was selling,”
The soft-serve ice cream shop on East Main Street opens for the season each year in March and closes in October.
Once DiGiandomenico realized she wasn’t going to be able to sell the business prior to opening March, she figured it made sense to open for a full season.
“March to May is the hard part. Orders inventory, pricing Etc. My high school employees are still in school, have sports and other commitments, and the (college) kids don’t get home until May. Come mid-May, the pressure is off! UNLIKE OPENING! If opening is my only option, I may as well do the complete season!” the post read.
Since posting to Facebook, DiGiandomenico said an “unbelievable” amount of people have reached out to show support and volunteer to help her get ready for the season.
“A lot of people have a lot of good memories from here,” she said in an interview at the East Main Street shop.
DiGiandomenico said she will continue to listen to offers while opening, but added her focus right now is on opening.
“I will continue to talk with people, but I’m opening. The commitment is now that I’m opening unless someone comes up tomorrow and says, ‘Here’s the money,” she said.
DiGiandomenico said she only intends to sell Les’ to an owner that wants to keep it as an ice cream store.
“I would like it to stay as is because that seems to be what the community wants,” she said.
Les’ history as an ice-cream shop goes back more than 60 years. In 1956, Ray Dubuc and Tony Fontanella built and opened a Dari-Delite franchise. They sold it to Les Anderson who changed the name to Les’ Dairy Bar. In 1976, Rose and Albert DiGiandomenico bought the ice cream shop from Anderson and kept the name because Les’ had a following. The DiGiandomenicos initially bought it for their eldest daughter and her husband, but the couple found the business too demanding for their young family and turned it over to Deb DiGiandomenico.