Since 1952, Les’ Dairy Bar has been serving ice cream treats in Meriden. It’s a local staple. One, that if not for a twist of fate created by the pandemic, may not still be operating.
Thursday was opening day. Unlike others though, this was different because it almost didn’t happen. Last year, the original owners wanted to retire and contemplated closing. Enter the Hamiltons, who have taken over.
It all happened unexpectedly. The Hamiltons were living in New York when the pandemic struck. Francis Hamilton lost his job and his wife Amanda was on maternity leave. The two decided to come to Connecticut to live with family. It was then that Francis Hamilton’s father suggested they buy, and save, the ice cream shop.
“My dad lived down the street from here. He grew up going here when he was a little kid,” said Francis Hamilton.
While the owners have changed, one thing hasn’t. The shop’s popularity continues to be strong. Maggie Bender says she’s been at Les’ opening day for 30 years.
“A couple of years ago I was skiing and came home in time before they closed to get a cone on opening day,” said Bender, who ordered a soft serve vanilla cone with chocolate sprinkles.
Before the window even opened today, people lined up. Donna Pienkosz, arrived an hour early, to be first in line.
“I’m getting a hot fudge sundae with chocolate ice cream and whipped cream. I do that every year,” she said.
The new owners were overwhelmed by Thursday’s response.
“I was really surprised actually,” said Amanda Hamilton who spent hours Thursday morning preparing the shop to open at noon.
While the day was one of happiness, there was some sorrow. Sadly, Francis’s father, the inspiration for the purchase, died of COVID-19 in January and was unable to witness the day.
“I think today, he’d be very proud, and he’d be very happy,” said Francis.
So, with the line snaking around Les’ Dairy Bar, the tradition continued. Now the only question is, can the new owners keep up with demand?
“I’m hoping we have enough mix to get through the weekend,” said Amanda, who knows the warmer weather is like to bring large crowds.