story & photo
by Angela Scirpo
The Old Lyme Ice Cream Shoppe and Café resides in the heart of the historic district
of Old Lyme, surrounded by quaint shops and world-class art galleries. The proprietors, Eileen and Jason Conroy, put their heart and soul into this family-run business that they bought almost three years ago from the shop’s pioneers.
The Conroys originally got to know the local ice-cream shop while they were dating because “It was the only place Jason could take me on our dates that I wouldn’t complain about,” Eileen quips. And she knows best: Eileen grew up at her father’s ice-cream business in New Jersey and helped to run it all through her youth.
But she found at the shop in Old Lyme that “it always tasted perfect,” so when Jason saw that it was for sale and had always wanted to own a business himself, they each knew “it was in the stars” for them.
Jason and Eileen specialize in fresh and natural ingredients for their ice cream; the result is unex- pected, fun flavors such as Coconut Pineapple, Moroccan Delight, Strawberry Shortcake and their most popular—Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough.
The idea for that one came from Eileen’s Mom.
Eileen remembers that Mom called one night, excitedly telling Eileen to get Jason on the phone so she could tell him about a batch of
cookies she had just baked. The end result was chocolate ice cream with cookie-dough pieces and a rich swirl of peanut butter.
“People love it every time we make a batch and it always flies out the door,” says Eileen.
And the shop came with a nice business bonus. “We like to say that we are probably the only ‘truly home-made’ ice cream, because this is where we live too,” Eileen explains.
“It’s nice to be here and be home at the same time,” says Eileen, “but people don’t realize the crazy hours you work.” Most days for the Conroys start at the crack of dawn and don’t end until close to midnight, but they love it and can’t imagine it any other way, they say.
The previous owners taught Jason everything he needed to know about the art of crafting ice cream, and Eileen and the customers all feel that he “truly has a gift for making it.”
The couple creates new flavors “Whenever the inspiration strikes; sometimes they happen as conver- sations over dinner or one of the kids that work for me will make a suggestion and then I will play with it and—boom!—something great comes out.”
Jason set out to replicate the Toasted Almond bars from Good Humor that he loved as a kid, and after many trials he created a version that he and his customers believe tastes as good as the original.
The flavor truly is a labor of love, Eileen says.
“We don’t just buy bulk crushed almonds, we buy fresh almonds. I toast them and crush them up in my
food processor and then they are add- ed to all the other fresh ingredients,” says Eileen. “All of our ice cream is labor-intensive but that’s what makes it so good.”
She adds that “A lot of ice-cream makers will use a chocolate mix from a can, but I get 50-pound bags of pure Dutch cocoa and I hand mix my chocolate—I actually make the chocolate that goes into my ice cream.
“It’s a lot of work, but that’s why it is as good as it is and that’s why it’s gaining such a great reputation- because when you love it that much, it shows, and people will come for it.” And that’s what really separates this ice cream from the crowd.
Deli Delights, Too
So if you are traveling through Southeastern Connecticut or want to make a special trip, you won’t be disappointed if you head for the west side of Lyme Street…almost across from the Library in town.
If you are hungry for more than a sweet treat, the Conroys also have a deli that serves an assortment of distinctive sandwiches. If you have been there before, look for some in- novations, too.
They’ve recently added more bread and specialty cheeses to the menu, and the list of other home- made additions includes hummus, fresh avocado spread, and—impres- sively—even their own mustard. In the winter there is also a variety of homemade soups that contain farmer’s-market ingredients and fresh-grilled chicken.
“People ask how we do it and I say it’s just pure determination, and a passion for what we do,” says Eileen.
Recently this family behind this business has expanded to include baby Ainsley, so if you stop in don’t be surprised to see Mama Eileen waiting on customers with her new- est addition happily snuggled into her front carrier and flirting with the customers. So stop in, sit down, and enjoy the many fun ice cream flavors or tasty deli sandwiches—you are sure to feel like you’re right at home.