Julie Kramer, right, mashes avocado for ice cream, one of the new flavors she brings as the new owner of Garside’s Ice Cream on Ferry Road in Saco. Emma Clarke, left, is embarking on her seventh season with the stand, and has helped the Kramer family learn the ins and outs of the Saco landmark. (Abigail Worthing photo)

SACO  — “Ideally, I’d like to find a family. Nice, with good local values, and excited about Garside’s.”

Those were the hopes of Eric Pendleton in March of last year when he spoke about whom he would ideally want to sell his family business, Garside’s Ice Cream on Ferry Road.

Now, 14 months later, the sale is final, the business is open for the season, and Pendleton has gotten his wish; a new family is working the stand.

Julie Kramer has lived within walking distance of Garside’s for years, and would frequently walk to get an ice cream with her two children, Joshua, now age 13, and Julianna, 11.

“I’ve always loved this place,” said Kramer with unbridled joy as she stands, surrounded by ice cream. “I would always say, ‘One day, I’m going to own this place.’”

One day, three summers ago, Julianna was sitting next to an older woman on the bench outside Garside’s, happily chatting about how one day her mother would own the ice cream stand and it would be their family business. The woman she was talking to, it turned out, was Mary Pendleton herself, Eric Pendleton’s mother.

The Pendleton family owned Garside’s since 1981 when they purchased it from Arthur Garside. Garside opened the ice cream stand in 1955 after experimenting with making ice cream at his adjacent farm for many years. Gordon Pendleton was looking for a post-retirement job, and saw the perfect opportunity in owning Garside’s, which is across the street from the Pendleton family home on Ferry Road. During the first year the Pendleton family owned Garside’s, they increased business by 800 percent. Gordon Pendleton ran the stand until his death in 1994, and his wife Mary and son Eric took over after. Mary Pendleton ran the business right up until her death in September 2018.

According to Kramer, the Pendleton family approached her to gauge her interest in purchasing the stand last year. The original price, however, was too high. She was approached again after Mary Pendleton’s passing and she and Eric Pendleton were able to come to an agreement on price, finalizing the sale in the beginning of November.

“Of course it’s bittersweet. It’s the end of an era, but we’re thrilled to have it remain a family business. She’s a business person, and she’ll do a better job than I ever could have,” said Eric Pendleton. “She doesn’t just have ideas, she has great ideas. She’s continuing our traditions, but she’s bringing it into the 21st century and she’s doing it out of love, which is the most important thing.”

Kramer is a Montreal native, but has lived in Maine for 17 years. With a background in the hospitality, food and beverage business, running the ice cream stand is a new adventure she has spent her whole life preparing for. Up until recently, Kramer was the owner of the Island View Motel in Old Orchard Beach, finalizing the sale of that property on May 1 before opening Garside’s for the season on May 2.

“I’ve always been an entrepreneur, and I couldn’t be happier to have this opportunity,” said Kramer, who is also a media representative for Spectrum.

Inside the 18-foot by 24-foot stand, some of the older fixtures remain, while many have been given an update. There is now a designated sundae station and stainless steel shelving and countertops throughout. The most noticeable of changes are to the vessel that the ice cream is stored in, the original metal containers from 1955 were retired, and there has been a switch over to cardboard. According to Kramer, that particular change did not come from a desire to change the past, but rather a shift to a more sanitary and efficient way of doing business.

Other original items still remain, including the large metal container that the stand still uses to make the tangy and light flavors of sherbet. The recipes are still housed in a small metal box, with many of the recipes written in both the handwriting of Pendleton family members and of Arthur Garside, a true tribute to the generations of scoopers that built the business.

Keeping with the Pendleton family tradition, the ice cream is all still handmade in house, and made with only the most premium ingredients, with dairy sourced exclusively by Oakhurst Dairy. The FDA regulates what can be labeled and sold as ice cream, and the product at Garside’s is what is qualified as “super premium ice cream” with an overrun, or amount of air whipped into the ice cream, of 30 percent, a level of milk fat at 14 percent, and a heavy weight.

“Garside’s is a true Maine original, one of, if not the oldest in Maine,” Pendleton said. “We’re thrilled to have found someone who not only keep the tradition, but to help the business thrive.”

While many of the flavors remain the same, Kramer, a self-professed “foodie,” has brought in some new and unusual flavors to update the menu.

“Ice cream is fun,” Kramer said. “The act of getting ice cream is fun, so the flavors should be fun too.”

The energy inside Garside’s is infectious as Kramer and her daughter Julianna buzz around, talking about the different flavors and plans they have for the future. Standing guard by the old ice cream machine is Emma Clarke, 20, who is beginning her seventh season working at Garside’s. She has been instrumental in helping Kramer learn the ropes, and makes the ice cream with the ease and confidence of someone who both loves and knows the stand.

The three chat about their favorite flavors, and gush with excitement over both the new and old. The new flavors pack a punch, while some of the old flavors have been given a facelift in the new phase of Garside’s. The Maine Maple Walnut, for example, is now made with real maple syrup and big chunks of walnut.

“Holy cow,” Clark said. “For such a small amount of maple syrup, it makes a huge difference.”

Of the new flavors, the most radical change is the addition of “Tom Brady’s Avocado” ice cream. The flavor is made with fresh mashed avocados, lemon and lime juices, a pinch of salt, and Oakhurst dairy. Named for Tom Brady’s favorite kind of ice cream, the flavor is light and tangy. For opening weekend, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, the flavor was paired with the new “Key Lime Pie” flavor, and marketed as a “Margarita and Avocado” duo.

In the spirit of “keeping ice cream fun,” Kramer is open to all kinds of new flavors and promotions, including the aforementioned “Cinco de Garsido’s” special, and offering a free cup of “mimosa” ice cream on Mother’s Day to any and all mothers who came by the ice cream stand.

Other new flavors include: ginger, which is loaded with chunks of candied ginger; Maine Blueberry Cheesecake, featuring real Maine blueberries and a New York style cheesecake base; vanilla cherry flavor has large pieces of Italian cherries; and a peach ice cream that almost seems more peach than ice cream.

Garside’s will now offer ice cream pies, priced at $16, made of whatever flavor the guest chooses. For those walking up with furry friends, the stand now offers a “doggie bowl,” a dish of vanilla ice cream with a Milk Bone on top, for $2.

“I have big, long term plans for this place,” Kramer said. “Next year, I want to offer food, like lobster rolls and hot dogs, and build a place to make the ice cream. But for now, I’m happy to just get this place up and running and learn as I go.”

The stand is now open on Thursdays and Fridays from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 9 p.m. until Memorial Day, when the stand will be open seven days a week.

“I plan on having this place for the long haul, and run it until I give it to my kids,” said Kramer, looking affectionately at her daughter stealing another taster of cotton candy ice cream. “I’m looking forward to the future.”

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