Written and photographed by Daniela Forte
Looking for a way to beat the dog days of summer? Harwinton has a new ice cream shop in town that embraces the community spirit and offers delicious ice cream, perfect for those hot late summer days. A&J’s Ice Cream Parlor opened earlier this summer and has already been a hit among residents and town officials alike.
“It’s been a lot of fun, it really has. We have gotten a lot of support from the town. The town is really excited that we’re here,” said owner and Burlington resident Brian DeMaio.
Brian’s wife and co-owner Jonna, who runs the parlor with their sons Anthony and Jonathan, said it took about two to three weeks to prepare for the opening of the ice cream parlor. The ice cream parlor was formerly the Harwinton Florist location.
“We were the last available commercial unit in town,” said Brian DeMaio.
The ice cream parlor has over 30 flavors available. Some of the favorite flavors among customers are chocolate moose tracks, mint chocolate chip and birthday cake.
“We have a really big list to choose from, so if somebody comes and asks for something that we don’t have, we try to get it for them,” said Jonna DeMaio. “We like to put out different ones if one doesn’t sell very well.”
The DeMaios have their favorite flavors too, from vanilla moose tracks to mint chocolate chip. The ice cream parlor will also have seasonal flavors since they plan to stay open all year round. Future flavors could include pumpkin, eggnog, apple pie and peppermint stick flavors.
Brian DeMaio said that one of things they also try to do is cater to people’s allergies. If someone comes in with a gluten allergy, most of their ice cream is gluten-free and people would never know the difference. There are also sugar-free flavors and sorbet for those that are lactose intolerant.
“We’re a big family, so it’s nice to have people come in with big families. You try to treat them like they’re family here,” said Brian DeMaio.
Enjoying ice cream isn’t the only thing residents and those passing by will enjoy. The owners are striving to bring a classic look and feel to the 1,200 square-foot location, with brightly colored walls and black and white checkered flooring. There will be vintage photos along the walls that will show the history of where the ice cream parlor is located.
“Eventually we would like to get a juke box in here, because we’re trying to stay old style,” said Brian DeMaio. “We’re going to be getting signs from the historical society.”
Jonna DeMaio said along with their son’s artwork on the wall, they are hoping to obtain art from students within the school district that can also be hung up on the wall.
Jonna DeMaio said they had been trying to open an ice cream parlor for about three years, they had this spot picked out, but there were things that needed to be fixed before they were ready to proceed.
“We’re extremely happy they’re here. What [Brian] did with the space was miraculous, he did a beautiful job,” said Kate Baldwin, a waitress at Hometown Pizza, which is adjacent to A&J’s Ice Cream Parlor.
The DeMaios hope to get involved in various community events. For example, they are hosting an ice cream social for the Harwinton Historical Society on Aug. 7.
“It’s very exciting for Harwinton to have the ice cream in town,” said Harwinton First Selectman Michael Criss.
Criss said with A & J’s Ice Cream Parlor taking up this location, it will render all of the commercial space in town occupied.
“It’s rare in this economy. By having them in town, it helps stabilize our tax rates, that was my goal in 2011,” said Criss, referring to when he got elected as First Selectman.
Criss said the town hopes to devise plans to work with businesses and make them viable and successful. The town is looking to keep its rural character and not have the big box stores and development.
“I bought the first ice cream cone. We’re very excited to have them here. Great family. I wish them the best of luck,” said Criss.
Jonna DeMaio said they are currently working with a blueberry farm in town to try to get fresh and local blueberries and local strawberry farms to incorporate other local business into the ice cream parlor.
Moving forward the DeMaios hope to obtain a soft serve ice cream license from the state, and serve penny candy and hot chocolate.
“We’re just hoping it goes well. The town has been very nice and welcoming and supportive,” said Jonna DeMaio. “It’s nice to be in a small community.”
A&J’s Ice Cream Parlor is located at 157 Litchfield Road in Harwinton. Hours are 12 to 9 p.m. For information, call (860) 605-9500 or visit their Facebook page www.facebook.com/AandJsIceCreamParlor.