Lago’s, in Rye, NH, celebrates 40 years of ice cream and family ties

RYE – Lago Ice Cream has always been a second home for longtime owners Andrea and Steve Grenier.

Now celebrating 40 years in business, ice making remains a passion for the Grenier family.

“It’s so much fun, Steve said.

Lafayette Road is back for another season of serving award-winning homemade ice cream. From traditional flavors like chocolate and vanilla to original creations like “Cappuccino Slam” and “Muddy Sneakers”, Lago’s has been a Seacoast staple for decades.

Even in the midst of the pandemic, Lago’s enjoyed committed patronage with an appetite for their homemade ice cream.

“Everyone is extremely happy that we are open,” said Andrea. “It gives them a place to hang out. The customers have been amazing, kind and generous. It was a lot of fun seeing everyone again. “

From left to right, ice cream master Mike Grenier, owners Andrea and Steve Grenier, ice cream connoisseur Erica Grenier, her husband and taste tester Jeff Gargaly and founder Mike Lago are excited to start their summer season of ice cream in Rye.

Making ice cream in 10 gallon batches, Lago produces over 260 gallons per day. Renovations in 2016 increased production, including installing a 14-foot by 28-foot walk-in freezer to replace the building’s original freezer. The original 8ft by 8ft freezer was installed when The Big Scoop, the pre-Lago’s company, was founded in 1957 at Lafayette Road.

Four generations have now made and collected ice cream, since Andrea’s parents, Mike and Carol Lago, bought Lone Oak ice cream in Rochester in the mid-1970s. Next year Lone Oak, still in custody by Andrea’s father, Mike, will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its opening under the original ownership in 1962.

Even after 40 years of service at Lago, the Greniers show no signs of slowing down.

“There are so many people that I’ve gotten to know and that my wife has gotten to know over the years, and it’s just nice. It makes it fun, ”Steve said.

How did Lago’s ice cream start?

If Andrea’s late mother Carol Lago hadn’t needed a day off in 1980, Lago’s current owners may never have met.

Carol, owner of Lone Oak Ice Cream in Rochester with her husband Mike, asked Andrea to cover her up. During this shift, a young Steve Grenier, then a delivery man, walked in and immediately caught Andrea’s attention.

When Lago's Ice Cream employees decide which college to attend, owners Andrea and Steve Grenier place their potential flags around the store to celebrate their accomplishments.

“So he came in for the first time, and I was like, ‘Oh, he’s kinda cute,’” she recalls. Hoping he would stick around, she gave him a piece of his grandfather’s birthday cake, as well as some ice cream. They talked a bit, but eventually Steve had to go back to work.

Knowing that she probably wouldn’t interact with him otherwise, Andrea called her business with an “embarrassing” request.

“And she called and said she forgot to order salt, just to get me back,” Steve said. “I was working for my boyfriend and he said, ‘I think she wants you back – she just ordered salt.'”

Steve returned to Lone Oak and asked her out, which led to a double date with Andrea’s friends while watching “Beatlemania” at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom. The couple married in 1982, a year after Andrea’s parents purchased The Big Scoop and founded Lone Oak Ice Cream de Lago.

Before getting married, Steve was greeted by the Lago family with open arms. Andrea said his mother knew him long before they even went out of his deliveries to Lone Oak.

“(She) loaded you with ice cream,” Andrea teased in an interview on Wednesday April 21. “Black raspberry, chocolate chip and hot fudge sundaes, with every delivery.

Dating Andrea in 1981, Steve learned the art of ice cream from his grandfather, Arnold “Gramps” Wade. The main lessons were simple but guaranteed a tasty product every time: use quality ingredients, do not modify recipes and never skip a step in the production process.

Steve has since passed on to his son the importance of paying attention to detail. “He taught me everything I know,” he said of Wade.

Andrea’s dad, Mike, a former dairy farmer who supplied Hood Milk, hired Steve as a delivery man for his dairy.

After her marriage, Andrea took care of Lago’s own until the couple were expecting their first child. Steve picked it up when she retired, switching to an ice cream joint in 1994 after selling sandwiches and fried foods for a while. Owned by the entire Lago family, Andrea and Steve became sole owners in 2010 and shortened the company name to Lago’s Ice Cream.

The couple’s two children, Erica, now 32, and Michael, 29, both started working at Lago around the time they turned 12. Michael has overseen ice cream production for the past 10 years and Erica, a sports trainer, returns to work occasionally. counter.

Although Steve, 60, says he has another decade in him, the couple plan to pass Lago on to their children. When that day arrives, Michael will continue to make ice cream in the back and Erica will manage operations up front.

Steve and Andrea, 59, still happily work together – a pleasure they don’t take for granted.

“Basically it’s the only thing I’ve ever known, and I still love it,” Steve said.

“It has been wonderful. I just got lucky, ”Andrea said. “I hit the lottery with him … and (with) my kids, I entered the lottery.”

Credit is due for the crew

In a back corner of Lago, two framed collages display smiling faces and short messages of gratitude.

Over the past four decades, Steve has said that Lago’s crew have become an extended family. The crew members “carried it to the success we have had today”.

Steve said it was like they had 40 different families in 40 years.

“It’s moving for me because I’m getting to know them,” he said.

Each year, around 35 high school students and young adults work at Lago, collecting and serving ice cream to hungry customers.

Lago's Ice Cream decorates their store with photo collages to commemorate former employees.

Steve said crew members from different schools made unexpected friendships, traveled together and attended each other’s weddings. Two won the Miss New Hampshire pageant. Some have their own children who have applied to work at Lago.

“These are things that I will always look back on and it will always make me smile,” he said.

Above the entrance to the company, a small blue sign reads: “Leave mediocrity at the door.” Recognizing multiple regulars, crew members will have their orders ready to ship by the time they make their way to the order window.

“They are just full of light and very sweet,” Andrea said.

During slower shifts, she added, team members were allowed to turn up the music and “get silly” singing and dancing. “And then, when there are people, they start working hard again.”

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Some crew members get their first job at Lago at the age of 15 and stay until they start their careers. Over time, the Greniers have purchased a collection of college pennants celebrating crew members who are continuing their education.

Employees who have worked at Lago for more than five years receive “Hall of Fame” recognition and receive free ice cream for life.

“I look at this and it just gives me a huge smile,” Andrea said looking at the collages. “You know what I mean? To see them all again, we really love these kids. We take them as families, we really do.

Four decades of memories, big and small

In 1986, Steve and Andrea traveled to Pennsylvania State University for the famous “Penn State Ice Cream Short Course”. The weeklong course, which teaches the art of “cow to cone” ice cream, is now in its 128th year.

The course, which attracts students from all over the world every year, is a precious memory.

“We attended this course for a week and met a lot of great people,” he said.

In 2010, Scotty Lago, Steve and Andrea’s nephew, won a bronze medal at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in the super halfpipe. Andrea was at the Vancouver Olympics and Steve was back home with his family to celebrate on a lookout night.

Shortly after, the Greniers celebrated their nephew by creating an ice cream in his name. Always a fan favorite, “Scotty Lago’s Bronze Run” is filled with caramel ice cream, toasted coconut, toasted nuts and graham crackers.

“It was a great time for our whole family,” said Steve.

Mike recalled that Steve created the popular Kahlua Fudge Brownie flavor in 1985 and participated in the “Ice Cream War” at Faneuil Hall in Boston the following year.

“And to be honest with you, I didn’t think there was a prayer that he could ever win it,” he said.

Steve’s creation exceeded Mike’s expectations, winning the title of “New England’s Best Specialty Flavor” for 1987.

“He won it with the Kahlua Fudge Brownie, and now everyone has Kahlua Fudge Brownie,” Mike said.

Andrea remembers returning home to Seabrook from Lone Oak as a child with Gramps Wade, her maternal grandfather, on daily trips that took an hour each time.

“I’m just grateful for this time,” she said. “He was awfully calm but just being with him I guess is my best memory.

In high school and college, the Greniers’ daughter Erica worked with some of her best friends at Lago. After closing, they would go to the beach on hot summer nights before getting up the next day to start over.

At work, she appreciated how awkward she could be with her coworkers, citing the moment when she and her first cousin Jason hung out the window shaking maracas to attract customers.

She also loves the feeling of a rush of customers and jostling around the store. During one shift, she totaled 5 miles after tracking her steps on her Fitbit.

“Being able to work as a team when there are a lot of people and everyone is flying, how fluid it is, it’s a really fun feeling,” she said. “It turns you on.”

Michael Grenier appreciates having grown up with so many children working at Lago by his side.

“Because I was here very young… I was here with all different age types, from 15 year olds like me to kids in their twenties,” he said.

Steve said his kids would come to the store when they were kids and sweep the catwalk. So that they and Andrea are always involved, he says, “there aren’t many businesses or family businesses that are profiting from it.

With their family by their side and a community that loves their work, the Greniers know that other memories are bound to be created. For them, there is no sweeter feeling.

“We love what we do and doing it together as a family is the icing on the cake,” Steve said.

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