WALLINGFORD — For 35 years, the ice cream that many across the state have grown to love has been produced in town.
In 1984, husband and wife Joe and Donna Torre opened their first Praline’s Ice Cream shop in what is now Staples Plaza on South Broad Street. They now supply 22 locations in Connecticut and Rhode Island.
“We liked Wallingford, it's a great town to do business in,” Donna Torre said. “We didn't know very many people in town and all these years later, we know a lot of people.”
Donna Torre’s initial role was set up new shops, but when her husband died 15 years ago she took charge of the business.
She sees each employee as a family member and wants them to feel comfortable and happy at work— a sentiment expressed by a sign hanging in her office that reads: “You never work a day in your life as long as you love what you’re doing.”
Joe Torre was a culinary graduate who wanted to start a business. He first considered pies, but the couple shifted to ice cream after realizing pies would be difficult to manage.
To celebrate 35 years, Praline’s plans to release a limited supply of their namesake flavor, which in recent years has become difficult to produce due to rising costs.
“We've been in Wallingford forever and we're proud of that,” Chief Marketing and Strategy officer Jalmar Dedios said.
Dedios isn’t sure when the flavor will be released, but said it will be announced via social media.
Praline’s is also planning a new flavor for the end of April. It is a secret, but about 60 children and adults visited the factory last month to do a taste-test, an annual event the business started a few years ago as a way to interact with the community more.
“We sell (ice cream) to stores but we really don't get that interaction with customers a lot,” Dedios said. “So we want to make sure that people know that they're welcome and that we are part of the community as well.”
Last year’s new flavor was “Connecticut Summer,” a swirl of black raspberry and lemon ice cream. In 2018, the new flavors were “Galaxy Explosion,” a sweet cream ice cream with Nerds candy, and “Frosty Mug Float,” a swirl of root beer and vanilla ice cream. Across New England
The ice cream has always been produced in Wallingford, with the factory currently at 30 North Plains Industrial Rd. It delivers supplies to 13 Praline’s Ice Cream shops in Connecticut and Rhode Island and to about 10 more independent shops, like Mr. D’s in Wallingford.
“A lot of people don't know that a lot of the stores in the area actually carry our ice cream,” Dedios said.
The group also wants to expand more, throughout New England.
The ice cream producer makes about 66 regular flavors, plus another handful of seasonal offerings — like pumpkin gingersnap, Irish cream, and eggnog chip.
For St. Patrick’s Day, Irish cream ice cream will be available through the end of March.