CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – Barbara Kessler’s new ice cream shop in Cross River wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for her son.
Like many young adults, the John Jay Middle School teacher’s oldest son, Josh, was a restless spirit. After graduating from college, he set out to find himself and spent time backpacking throughout South America and skiing in Vail, Colo., before settling in Seattle.
“He told me he couldn’t find any good ice cream in Seattle,” said Kessler, who teaches Spanish to seventh- and eighth-graders. “So, he started making it on his own.”
Josh’s friends liked his ice cream so much that they encouraged him to open his own store, which he did in 2009. He now has three.
“I went out there and tasted it and it was so good that I couldn’t eat any other ice cream after that,” said Kessler, who resides in Ridgefield, Conn. She tried to convince her son to send her some ice cream, even offering to pay for the dry ice that mailing it would require. When that didn’t work, she tried to talk him into leaving Seattle to open a shop back home.
“But all his friends are in Seattle and he didn’t want to leave,” she said. “So, I said, ‘If you’re not going to do it, teach me how and I’ll do it.’ ”
And that’s how Bluebird Homemade Ice Cream came to Cross River. The shop opened three weeks ago in the strip mall on Route 121 across from Orchard Square.
“The main reason I did this is that I’ve been teaching a long time and I understand children,” Kessler said. “I wanted kids to have another place to hang out and be on their own. Parents know me and trust me. Families can come after dinner and play games and talk.”
Kessler designed the store’s interior, which includes a giant blackboard.
“The kids always want to write on the blackboard at school, and sometimes that’s a problem if I have a lesson there,” she said. “Here, they can write all they want.”
On a hot Thursday afternoon, customer traffic was steady. Kessler said she’s been doing a brisk business since her grand opening, with many return customers. The key, she said, is the quality of the product.
“All the ingredients are completely natural with no artificial colors or flavors,” she said. “It’s something I would give my children.”
The ice cream machine, which was imported from Italy, plays an important role as well.
“It doesn’t pump a lot of air into it,” she said. “That’s why it’s so dense and creamy.”