From April until the end of September, the North End Dairy Treat offers soft-serve ice-cream. Bill Mulneaux and his 90-year-old mother Jenny Mulneaux have ran the shop for 11 years. Now Bill said he will be putting the business up for sale.
“The place has tremendous, tremendous history. I mean, people come back here,” said Bill.
Bill said the North Third Street location has been around since the late 1940s. Over the years, the building has had many names — the two most well-known being “Brown’s Ice Cream Shop” and “Ken’s Corner.” Bill said the ice-cream shop was the first in the area to offer chocolate soft-serve ice cream.
“When it’s been around that long, people from Lyons — and they have a strong identity with Lyons — they come back all the time,” said Bill.
Bill has kept a list of where people have visited from. He said it was fun. People have come from across the country to visit North End Dairy Treat. They have also come from other countries. Bill said he has visitors from Spain, England, Germany and Austria. “We’re world famous, you see,” said Bill.
A former teacher, Bill decided to buy the business 11 years ago and work it with his mother. He was 55 at the time and was “too old” to get hired.
“So I bought myself a job,” said Bill
At the same time, his mother was almost 80. Bill said most women her age would not have signed up to work a full-time job, much less continue it into her 90s. Bill and Jenny are the only full-time employees at the shop.
Over the past couple of years, Jenny has slowed down and Bill said he thinks they are both ready to put the business up for sale. He said one thing prompting him to sell is actually the success of the store. He said when they first opened, children and seniors made up most of their customers. Now, a lot more people are coming in for one of their 11 flavors of soft-serve ice cream. When they started, they were open every day from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Now they are open Thursday through Monday from 1:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
“Now, we’re open seven hours a day, five days a week and we’re doing more business,” said Bill. “Business is increasing and I’m getting slower. It’s not a good combination.”
Bill said he plans to try to sell the business this year. If he’s unable to, he will open the store up again next year and try again. He said he will miss the business and working with his mother.
Bill and Jenny agreed what they will miss the most — children. Both said interacting with the children is their favorite part of having the shop.
“They’ll come in early in the year and they’re about this tall. And they're hiding behind mom, you say ‘Hi’ to them, you try to be nice, and they're shy. By June they’re bouncing in here with a dollar in their hand and they’re doing it all by themselves,” said Bill.
Bill said he feels that buying ice cream can often be the first time a child spends money. He said parents sometimes sit in the car and let children come in and order and pay by themselves.
“That's a big, grown-up experience,” said Bill. He said he enjoys that most of the children recognize him