North Country Entrepreneurs
The North Country is rich with a history of entrepreneurship. On Route 22 in the hamlet of Beekmantown, a small dairy shop continues to be a shining example of this history. Udder Delight Dairy Shop is an absolute favorite stop for North Country residents during the warm weather months. Every summer, families gravitate to Udder Delight to enjoy delicious Michigans, burgers, fries, poutine, and (most importantly) great soft serve ice cream.
The Shop has been open for several decades under different ownership, but today the business is owned by Jerry and Lisa Deno, who also own the familiar Guma’s Family Restaurant, Guma’s East, and Denos Family Sugar House. In 2012, the Denos purchased The Dairy Shoppe from the Weeden family. “They were great,” said Deno, referring to the support provided by the Weeden’s after the sale. “We’re now in our seventh season.”
Years ago, the Deno family operated Brean & Deno Country Store and Deno has many fond memories from that experience as a youth. “I remember I bought an ice cream machine [for the store] when I was 16 years old,” he said. This would serve as his first exposure to the world of serving ice cream, as well as learning how to effectively maintain the equipment.
The name Udder Delight brings a uniqueness and creativity to the business. “Before we owned the stand, we traveled through the island of St. Lucia,” said Deno. “While we were there we passed a small dairy shop named Udder Delight and I loved it! I said to myself, ‘If I ever open a dairy shop, I want to name it Udder Delight’.”
The Delightful Staff
Despite what some might assume, running a dairy shop is no small task. The Denos greatly appreciate the support they’ve received from the local community to make the shop a success. “We’ve been very fortunate with the help we’ve received. Very, very fortunate,” said Deno.
The staff at Udder Delight is considered one of its greatest assets but it can be difficult keeping the operation appropriately staffed with trained employees year to year. Many of them are high school or college students that decide to move on to pursue other opportunities. This can present a unique staffing challenge that the Denos have addressed proactively over the years, especially when they first open the business every spring. “The first month and a half often is the busiest of the season,” said Deno. “Even when it’s 90 degrees in the middle of the summer. The first month or so is always the busiest.”
Secrets to a Quality Product
The Denos have always made the quality of their products a top priority. One way they do this is by using the freshest ice cream mixes that are not ultra-pasteurized. “It’s like getting a fresh carton of milk versus the ultra-pasteurized stuff that lasts 45 days,” said Deno. “It makes a big difference in freshness and quality.”
The other key element to their quality product is their commitment to cleanliness, especially related to their ice cream machines. “We take very good care of our machines,” said Deno. Cleaning the machines is a constant item on the “To Do” list at Udder Delight. “It’s about paying attention to the details.”
As a result, the ice buildup inside the machines is removed on a regular basis, which can help to produce a creamy, rather than icy, product. That can help customers avoid the dreaded “freezer headache” they might get from enjoying their ice cream a bit too fast.
Special and Unique Products
Like many local ice cream businesses, Udder Delight has some unique products they believe set them apart. “We get a lot of compliments on our Michigans and poutine,” said Deno. As far as ice cream is concerned a popular item is their Parfait of the Week, where customers can look forward to a new creative concoction each week.
“We also try to add something new every year,” said Deno. “We try to create new products all the time.” Another big hit, according to Deno, is their homemade chocolate chip and peanut butter cookie ice cream sandwiches. These decadent treats contain two large homemade cookies with a layer of ice cream in the middle.
They also do their best to cater to dietary restrictions. The stand always carries a Dole Whip special, which is a lactose-free product that many customers enjoy. In addition, the business also carries sugar free hard vanilla ice cream.
Plans Moving Forward
The Denos are proud of the business as they run it today, and there aren’t any plans to pass the torch anytime soon. “This is a fun business to be in,” said Deno, reflecting on his nearly seven years of running Udder Delight. “People are happy when they’re here and we try to make them even happier.”