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    Wednesday, February 28, 2024

    Michael’s Dairy braces for season opening Saturday

    Supervisor Allan Ford, a junior, hands Betsy Beaulieu, vice president of academic affairs at Mitchell College, her ice cream cone Thursday, March 30, 2023, while his father, lead supervisor James Ford, mans the cash register at Michael’s Dairy located on the Mitchell College campus in New London. Michael’s opened Thursday with a soft opening and the official opening is Saturday. Hours are noon to 9 p.m. seven days a week. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    People get ice cream Thursday, March 30, 2023, at Michael’s Dairy in New London. Michael’s opened Thursday with a soft opening and the official opening is Saturday. Hours are noon to 9 p.m. seven days a week. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Brianna Finnigan scoops ice cream for senior Alyssa Hovey, of Tolland, left, and Faculty and Student Engagement Fellow Luis Ramirez, both of Mitchell College, Thursday, March 30, 2023, at Michael’s Dairy located on the Mitchell College campus in New London. Michael’s opened Thursday with a soft opening and the official opening is Saturday. Hours are noon to 9 p.m. seven days a week. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    New London ― Trying to get the scoop on the opening of ice cream season, students and employees of Mitchell College on Thursday and Friday drifted over to Michael's Dairy for a ritual that brings back sweet memories for many locals.

    The college, which owns the Montauk Avenue dairy, had announced this week that college students and employees would be able to get a head start on the season as well as a $1 discount on ice cream by showing their ID. It was a cold day Thursday, but still they came in good numbers to partake of a ritual that the public won’t be able to enjoy until Saturday.

    "I like ice cream. It's a good thing to have on a busy day of classes," said Hana Rihani, a freshman at Mitchell College's Thames Academy from Washington, D.C. "It feels like it's going to be summer soon."

    "I can't help myself, it's so good," added Zachary Stock, another freshman from Thames Academy, enjoying a chocolate ice cream with chocolate sprinkles. "It's not easy to say 'no.'"

    “Michael Dairy’s a happy place,” said James Ford, lead supervisor for the shop this year and a food services employee at Mitchell College.

    Ford said the shop for the first time hopes to feature a red-and-white ice cream trailer truck to cater events in the area. And, when it isn't tied up with catering, the Michael's Dairy vehicle will be available to deal with overflow crowds at the shop by serving up some of customers' favorite flavors, including double chocolate, Oreo and Grand Central Station, which includes graham cracker and honey flavors.

    Michael's Dairy’s more than 35 flavors are now produced by New England Ice Cream under the Bliss brand according to the original recipes, he said. In addition to cups and cones of ice cream that will run from $4.99 to $8.99, the dairy will be selling pints of ice cream from a freezer out front during the season from noon to 9 p.m. every day of the week.

    The history of Michael’s Dairy and ice cream goes way back, according to a history of the business compiled last year by Mitchell College students. It appears there was some ice cream production going on at a previous incarnation known as Mumford Dairy as early as 1934, but it was Michael Buscetto Sr. who took over the business a year later and made the cool dessert a staple of what was to become Michael’s Dairy.

    Mitchell College in 2006 purchased the Michael’s Dairy property, at one time attempting to run the business as a year-round coffee shop. But this year, it is focusing again on the dairy as a seasonal ice cream establishment.

    Ford said the dairy will no longer offer meals, but it does sell a variety of other items, including Deep River chips, Schooner's iced tea, cookies from The Arc, juice from Bluewater Farms and coffee from Ashlawn Farm, all Connecticut brands.

    "We're trying to support everybody," Ford said.

    Up to a dozen employees will help run the ice cream shop this summer, many of them Mitchell College students who will have more time after classes end May 5, Ford said.

    For Thursday’s soft opening, Ford’s son Allan and vegan ice cream maker Brianna Finnigan were on hand to serve students and employees who trickled in.

    Ford said he is still working on entertainment at Michael’s this year, but possibilities include bands on the lawn and perhaps an antique car show.

    While rain is anticipated Saturday, Ford said "We're still expecting a mob. I've been flooded with calls all week. We'll be here rain or shine."

    Robert Taylor, a former Mitchell student who is now a residence hall adviser, recalls working at Michael’s Dairy as a student supervisor right after the school purchased it. Munching on his favorite Grand Central Station flavor, he pronounced the spiffed-up store ready to go.

    “It looks great,” he said.

    l.howard@theday.com

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