With the weather warming (in fits and starts), The Bridge has put together this guide for Central Vermonters and visitors to four popular creemee stands among several in the Montpelier area. The Bridge invites you to take a deeper dive into the creemee business.
Cliff Dodge and his wife Laurie bought the iconic creemee stand on lower State Street from Lee Hershey in 1997, launching a family institution. The building had previously been an A&W. Patrons would drive up to be served burgers and soda by car hops, but Cliff and Laurie had a different idea. With the help of their daughter Buffy, they began serving ice cream in two flavors, chocolate and vanilla. There was no twist available, so customers had to choose between the two.
That’s quite a change from the variety of fried foods and ice cream Dairy Creme offers today.
Among the most popular items are sundaes, banana splits, and dipped cones, dishes that people would rather not make at home. Over the years, Dairy Creme has discontinued only a few items, such as apple pie a la mode, certain sundaes, and snowcones. “People just lost interest,” said Cliff.
The family has all worked hard at the Dairy Creme over the years. For the past 20 years, Cliff and Laurie have been hands-on at the creemee machine. Cliff organizes menus and pricing and conducts maintenance on the ice cream machines. During peak season, he and Laurie often work seven days a week, up to 14 hours a day.
The two do rely on a large team of dedicated staff. Their daughter Buffy is instrumental, “She’s been there since day one,” said Cliff, “and she really keeps things running.” Buffy handles much of the baking necessary for operation, including baking cookies for ice cream sandwiches and baking waffle cones.
During the summer the family is aided by roughly 15 staff members, mostly high school or college students. Cliff recruits staff who are motivated and have a positive attitude. The good working environment pays off, and they have about five employees return each season. The Dairy Creme opens in mid to late spring. That allows new employees to be trained, which Cliff and Laurie do themselves. Depending on the weather, you can expect to be able to buy a Dairy Creme creemee around the first of May.
Two and a half years ago, Meadow Mart expanded its ice cream options from creemees only to a variety of milkshakes, sundaes, and summer treats. To this day, however, maple reigns supreme. The most popular order at Meadow Mart is the classic maple creemee with maple crunch (crystallized maple sugar bits). Ashley Demers, whose family owns the store, manages the creemee stand and much of the store. Three staff members are usually in the store at a time to help cover ice cream orders, but no new staff members are usually brought on for the summer.
When it comes to creemee flavors, Ashley and the staff keeps it simple with the standard maple and vanilla as well as an extra flavor that comes and goes throughout the season. As for toppings, rainbow sprinkles are a favorite for kids.
Meadow Mart serves creemees from mid-March until the end of October and sees lots of customers from the neighborhood and beyond during Vermont’s warm summers.
Making customers happy is what Barbara LeGrand-Bragg is all about. She and her husband Doug Bragg have been serving creemees for 28 years. With a focus on local ingredients, they offer unique toppings on their sundaes, including fruit drizzles from local “Sidehill Jam” of Brattleboro. In both maple-blueberry and apple-maple varieties, the sweet sundae topping is a special treat at Bragg Farm.
If that alone does not satisfy your craving for fruit, Bragg Farm also serves fruit milkshakes alongside other signature flavors. During the summer, three full-time staff members work behind the counter, but Barbara and Doug step in as well. She does much of the machine maintenance, which requires frequent cleaning. In the summer, Barbara estimates that she sells 250 creemees a day, excluding other orders.
Bragg Farm serves year-round, and during COVID-19, Barbara noticed that many used a creemee stop as an excursion out of the house, and a tasty one at that. Families felt safe coming to the farm even during the off season just for a change of pace. “It really brightened people’s days,” said Barbara.
Morse Farm creemees focus on what they do best — maple. Jake Shattuck, a member of the Morse family and general manager of the store and creemee stand says that the employee team works to put an emphasis on the syrup the family boils themselves.
Their signature maple creemee with maple dust (dehydrated syrup in a
fine, golden powder) is a favorite order among locals and tourists. The dust is “the magical ingredient to make it extra maple-y,” said Jake. Morse Farm also serves walnuts, sprinkles, and other toppings as well as specialty items such as maple milkshakes.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jake and the Morse family saw a slump in traffic in the store as well as in creemee sales. At the end of the day, it was local community members who came through for Morse Farm with creemee sales. Morse Farm sells creemees all year round, meaning even on the coldest winter days customers would come in for their maple creemees. “I think at this point people would be pretty angry if we stopped serving all year,” said Jake.
During the summer, Morse Farm expands its hours into the evening to accommodate the higher turnout. During peak season (early summer and into fall) Jake oversees 12 to 15 summer hires. The large number of mainly high school students means that employees will have more flexible hours and more time to enjoy their summers.
This article was updated May 4 to reflect that Lee Hershey owned Dairy Creme prior to the Dodges.