Reason for Denville Dairy s success?
It s in the ice cream
Thirty-two flavors of homemade favorites
keep customers coming
By Joe Mordini
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DENVILLE It s 12:45 in the afternoon at the Denville Dairy, and while business right now is just a gentle trickle, within a few hours every corner of the tiny shop will be filled, with a line of people stretching out the door into the warm summer night.
How does this tiny ice cream shop on Hollywood attract such large crowds on a nightly basis?
"It s the ice cream," said Nancy Micconi, 56, of Morristown, as she licked a vanilla ice cream cone with her husband Jack, 57. "I don t know how they do it, but they have the best ice cream anywhere."
The ice cream, owner Jack Fine says, is all homemade in this family-owned business, just as it has been since the store opened its doors 18 years ago. He offers his customers 32 flavors of super-premium hard ice cream "We sell more hard ice cream than everything else combined," he says along with soft-serve, diet, low-fat and sugar-free ice creams. Ice cream cakes and pies are also popular at the Dairy.
In the time since he first opened shop, Fine has seen a lot of different fads come and go, especially with cheap, non-gourmet ice cream and several of what he calls "accessories" items such as cookie sandwiches with ice cream but he says that, to his customers, "Cost is not really a factor. If it s good it ll sell & junk is still junk."
When he first started, Fine said, a small ice cream cone sold for 15 cents. "Now," he said, craning his neck to view the menu behind the counter, "it s $1.60." He laughs. "If you told me when I first started that one day people would be paying more than a buck-fifty for that, I would ve laughed at you."
The Dairy s loyal customers don t seem to mind the cost or the wait, for that matter. Mr. Micconi said, "The ice cream here is always worth waiting for. It s a bit of a drive to get here, and there s sometimes a line, but it s worth it for the ice cream."
So what s the best time to stake out a place in line at the Dairy? Fine said his largest crowds show up between 7:30 and 9 p.m., where a patrons wait between 20 and 30 minutes to be served ice cream. The wait time is longest between May and September; the busiest days are Easter, Mother s and Father s Days and graduation days. If you d prefer to spend less time waiting in line, morning hours are ideal the Dairy opens at 11 a.m. or during the winter, as the shop is open year-round with the exception of three weeks in December and January.
"We certainly are grateful," Fine said. "(The large crowd) is a motivation in itself you can t become complacent and let customers down."
As part of that gratitude, Fine donates money each year to local groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club, and school bands.
Fine knows that he is not the only place in Morris County where people can buy ice cream. "There are a lot of good ice cream places around here," Fine acknowledges. "I think family pride makes a big difference here."
But the greatest part of his success, as Fine s customers will tell you, is the quality of his ice cream.
"I work nearby, and I love stopping by for a quick cone after lunch," said Debra Follum, 27, of Rockaway. "It s only chocolate ice cream, but it tastes great."
The Denville Dairy is only the latest of projects in the food business that Fine has undertaken. Before opening it almost 20 years ago, Fine owned several local Dairy Queens, which is where he developed his love of ice cream. His first store in Denville was located on the corner of Rte. 53 and Bloomfield, and it was only open for eight months out of the year. "We sold Christmas trees out of the lot in winter," said Fine.
That was 36 years ago. Eighteen years later, he and his family moved the store to its current location, where the business continues to thrive.
"People watched my own kids grow up here, and we ve watched other kids grow up. I think people really appreciate that."