New ice cream shop is a cool idea for New London's Bank Street

Laura Beckham, co-owner of Berry's Ice Cream & Candy Bar, makes sure there are enough napkins for the 4th-grade students from the Regional Multicultural Magnet School visiting the shop for an end-of-the-school-year treat.
Laura Beckham, co-owner of Berry's Ice Cream & Candy Bar, makes sure there are enough napkins for the 4th-grade students from the Regional Multicultural Magnet School visiting the shop for an end-of-the-school-year treat. Dana Jensen/The Day Buy Photo

New London - Berry's Ice Cream & Candy Bar, which opened one week ago today, already has made an impression on Avery Holzworth, who earlier this week visited twice in one day.

"I like how it's decorated with a bunch of candy dispensers," said the recent middle school graduate, who was seated at the front of the store with brother Jack, aunt Alyssa Reed of Marlborough and grandmother Patty Kalin of Ledyard.

Reed said she particularly enjoyed the milkshakes and the vibrant hues of the old-fashioned ice cream parlor that also includes a takeout window.

"Purple is one of our favorite colors," she said.

"We'll be back for more," added Kalin.

Co-owners Laura Beckham and Teresa Berry said they could have located an ice cream store anywhere but chose downtown New London because they liked the vibe.

Berry, a morning radio host with Shawn Murphy on Soft Rock 106.5, said she has spent a lot of time on Bank Street enjoying excellent food at Chaplin's, Gaspar's, The Exchange and Hot Rod Cafe. And she loved the building at 60 Bank St., where another ice cream store previously was located, coming to look at it with Beckham in the chill of November, when most people's thoughts were trending toward warmer fare.

Beckham, a graphic designer, started by dreaming of the warm, summery colors that would grace the walls, settling on purple in honor of Berry, sherbet representing ice cream and green for natural ingredients.

"I saw a vision that was ... kind of fun and colorful," Beckham said.

They also early on decided they wanted to find a local brand of ice cream, settling on Wildowsky Dairy Farm in Lisbon, which takes its freshly produced milk that contains no hormones or antibiotics, pasteurizes it on site and then hand churns toppings to mix them into the ice cream.

"We call it from cow to cone," Beckham said.

"It's made within a week of when we sell it," added Berry.

The owners said Berry's is the first ice cream shop to carry Wildowsky's ice cream exclusively. In return, they said, the dairy has created two flavors exclusively for sale at the ice cream shop: butter pecan and mint chocolate chip.

"The coconut has gone crazy down here," Berry said.

Other ice cream flavors include maple walnut, orange pineapple and cherry vanilla. Shakes are in combinations such as black razz chip, vanilla peanut butter, coconut almond fudge and maple toffee crunch.

Berry, who emphasized she wasn't giving up her day job on the radio, said it took only about six weeks to get the shop up and running. Luckily, the timing was right because, after a cold spring, the weather turned summery right around the time of the shop's opening.

"We hit it just right," Berry said. "We couldn't have gotten any luckier."

Beckham said the owners were hoping to be able to close on Mondays, but demand was so strong that they have decided to stay open seven days a week.

"We don't close our doors on customers," Beckham said.

And that includes the occasional canine visitors, who are known to encourage their owners to order Berry's "pup cups" at the takeout window.

Beckham credited the Meriden-based Community Economic Development Fund, which helps small businesses in financially distressed areas of the state get off the ground, with helping to fund the store's opening. Beckham's mother, Melodie Beckham, has been helping with bookkeeping as well as spending some time behind the counter, and Cass Macdonald is the manager.

Store hours will be noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; noon to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Berry and Beckham had been talking about possibly closing the business between December and February, but would consider staying open year-round if there were enough demand - or if they could turn to other fare - in the colder months.

"It's just been nonstop," Berry said. "Who knew it was going to take off so quickly?"

l.howard@theday.com

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