By Paula Roy –
While many may still be mourning the loss of Hintonburg’s Fairmont Confectionery and Sam’s Café, there’s now a reason to rejoice. The new owner of the building at the corner of Gladstone and Fairmont is none other than Wellington West’s Marlene Haley, the frozen treat queen behind the popular mobile Merry Dairy truck. She’s currently renovating the space and hopes to open a combination storefront and production space by mid-spring.
One of the things that excites Marlene the most about her new location is the fact that it will enable her to offer scoopable Midwest-style frozen custard, in addition to the soft-serve, Jersey-style now dished out in the truck.
“Both are premium products that taste a lot different than what most people are used to,” she explains, noting that it’s because of the low overrun, which is an ice cream industry term for the amount of air that’s put into the ice cream base as it’s being churned. With less air, frozen custard feels smoother and denser than standard ice cream, and the all-natural flavours really stand out too.
The Merry Dairy’s unique products have been garnering rave reviews since Marlene launched the truck in the summer of 2012, and her ‘track the truck’ app helps eager customers chase her down on hot summer evenings. The new Merry Dairy location will feature the same retro, cheerful look that makes the truck so identifiable.
“In addition to a few parking spots, there’s lots of space on the outside of the building for some fun signage,” notes Haley, who plans to have a patio with picnic tables and an awning, to complement the bar stools indoors.
Having a bricks-and-mortar location will allow Marlene to reduce the impact that poor weather can have on traffic at her truck. “I hope to extend our season from spring through to December, and offer more flavours, a dipping cabinet and the opportunity for people to place larger take-home orders too,” she says. In addition to maintaining a nut-free kitchen, she’ll also introduce some dairy-free products this year. Since getting into catering, she’s also developed a good corporate customer base, creating unique products for events, weddings and more, including ice cream sandwiches and frozen pops, so she’s eager to have more space to work on that side of her business.
“I love the history of this old building; I am just the fifth owner and I know it’s been a part of neighbourhood life for a long time,” says Marlene, who anticipates creating a space with a down-to-earth atmosphere and real sense of community. “I want it to feel like an authentic, truly local spot.”
Rather than feeling daunted by the work ahead of her, Marlene says she’s experiencing more of a sense of relief after years of renting a commercial kitchen in the east end. “I love that I’ll finally have a real home for my business,” she says. “The truck and carts can live here instead of my driveway. This space will give me a chance to grow the business in a manageable way and I just love that I can walk here from my home.”
As she talks about her plans with her customary bright smile, Marlene says that the possibilities for her space are endless. “Right now all I can think about is the renovation, which I am excited about, but I am also looking forward to the work being done so I can get back into creative mode and develop some new flavours and expand our product offerings.”