MERIDEN — Amanda and Francis Hamilton are excited to keep a 60-year tradition alive as the new owners of Les’ Dairy Bar
“I know we want to do our very best to keep up the reputation that Deb (DiGiandomenico) has built,” Amanda Hamilton said. “We want to keep things the same as much as we can and hopefully improve upon the stuff that she has been doing so well.”
The couple recently settled into a new home in Middlefield with their 1-year-old daughter, after living 10 years in Queens, New York.
The two met in acting school in Hollywood and have both worked in the food industry, but the ice cream business is new to them.
Francis Hamilton lived in Meriden until he was about 5 and his family moved to Wallingford and eventually beyond. Amanda Hamilton grew up in California.
The Hamiltons moved to Connecticut to be with family when the pandemic started. They heard Les’ was for sale and were convinced by Francis Hamilton’s father that it could be a good move for them. His father, a Meriden resident and Les’ customer decades ago, is also part of the business.
“We were just really excited about the idea and looking for something that we could have a passion for and that we would be happy with and the pieces kind of fell together at the right time,” Francis Hamilton said. “There's a community built around here, we're really happy to get ingratiated in that. That's one of the other things we're most excited about ...”
Current owner Debra DiGiandomenico, who has owned the shop for 38 years, felt comfortable handing over the business to the Hamiltons. She didn’t want to sell to someone who would tear down the building and turn the lot into something else.
“They wanted to be part of the community and wanted to keep it alive and the same,” she said.
DiGiandomenico plans to be around through the season and into the spring to help the Hamiltons get settled.
“I didn't put 38 years into it just to walk away,” she said. “I'm gonna give them the reins and when they need me I literally live down the street so I'm a phone call away to fix it.”
Francis Hamilton said DiGiandomenico has been a huge help training them over the last few weeks. The couple plans to keep the staff on.
“Deb's like a mechanic. She knows the sounds of these machines, every aspect of them and she can pick them apart and put them back together,” Francis Hamilton said. He’s been recording videos of how she fixes things to help in the future.
DiGiandomenico said her looming retirement is a bit anticlimactic due to the coronavirus, but she’s looking forward to having summers off and being able to enjoy the simple pleasures. like growing a garden, sitting outside and most of all being home with her dogs.
The Meriden resident is also looking forward to crafting more too, particularly to benefit Galgo and Podencos dogs, which are widely abused in Spain.