Michael's Dairy reopening as year-round coffee shop
New London — Michael's Dairy, the popular takeout ice cream shop closed for several months as Mitchell College completed extensive renovations, will hold a grand re-opening Sunday to celebrate a new inside seating area as well as its expansion to include a year-round coffee shop with WiFi and even a small menu of breakfast and lunch items.
For now, however, the shop at 629 Montauk Ave. will offer only phone-in and carry-out ice cream service. Patrons can use three small outdoor tables, but the gazebo will be closed to the public because of social-distancing requirements outlined by the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont.
"When new socialization rules come to be, we will reevaluate inside seating," said Tim Grills, director of dining services at Mitchell College, in an email response to questions from The Day.
The newly reimagined shop, open from noon to 8 p.m. seven days a week and now with a dozen new parking spots, combines the original 650-square-foot ice cream area with an existing 400-square-foot student cafe via a pass-through containing a counter and small seating area. Grills said fewer than 30 seats will be available once the inside area is opened to the public.
The new Michael's space will offer a coffee bar and baked goods, serving Bliss and Gifford's ice cream as well as its own vegan varieties (initially strawberry swirl and chocolate chip almond) made on-site from coconut milk. To view the menu, visit mitchell.edu/michaels-dairy/.
At the start, Michael's Dairy patrons will be limited to purchasing cups, pints and quarts of the 32 ice cream flavors — no cones — as well as prepackaged sundae toppings. All employees will wear masks and gloves, and the line for pickup will clearly show where to stand for six-foot distancing.
When restrictions are eased, a full menu including Mariners Blend coffee made by Sun Coffee Roasters will be available, as well as Teatulia teas, muffins, bagels and breakfast sandwiches. In the winter months, when Michael's Dairy had previously been closed, only the top dozen or so ice cream flavors will be available.
This summer, Grills said he hopes to sponsor sock-hop type events outside the shop as well as magicians and clowns.
"This was part of an overall capital improvement for the college that was worked on when former President Janet Steinmayer was here," Grills said. "This was one of the areas that we felt could be expanded for the students and the community."
The dairy, overseen by Grills and his dining services team, traditionally has hired Mitchell College students and graduates over the summer. And now that it is a year-round operation, Grills said the business will open up new learning opportunities.
"Internships for credit in business or hospitality are offered at Michael's Dairy to Mitchell students through our Integrative Career Development office," he said. "Michael's Dairy is one of Mitchell's on-campus career labs.... As Michael's is a small business, it is perfect for real world experience for the students."
According to a release, career labs offer students majoring in business or hospitality management the possibility of internships for college credit.
Grill said the new shop setup will include much of the original aesthetic, including the chalkboard menus and old Michael's Dairy sign. A separate grand opening for the coffee bar will be announced at a later date.
"Profits will go back into Michael's Dairy and Mitchell College to invest in the vision of Mitchell College for our students and community," Grills said.
Mitchell College bought Michael's Dairy and its iconic red barn in 2006 for $900,000 from the Buscetto family. The original red barn was demolished because of structural issues, but Mitchell College later constructed its own Red Barn performance and event space that closely resembled the original.
Michael's Dairy was run by Michael Buscetto Sr. for decades, and it was New London's last milk-processing dairy until the 1970s. Buscetto, who grew up working for Mitchell Dairy, bought the business and renamed it in 1943, just five years after the Mitchell family donated adjacent land to create New London Junior College, later renamed Mitchell College.
"Now this popular warm-weather spot will serve the public year-round with an expanded menu and provide numerous experiential learning opportunities for our students," said Catherine Wright, interim Mitchell College president, in a statement. "We couldn't be more excited for all of the possibilities."
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