Trish Rost, 52, and Robert Snyder, 59, have a sweet retirement plan.
The couple purchased Cooper’s Barn, formerly Penguin Ice Cream, at 4833 state Highway 28 in Hyde Park earlier this year. Rost and Snyder have been scooping out a niche for themselves ever since.
“I’ve owned a few businesses in the past and at one point had a hotel and restaurant,” Rost said. “But (he) and I wanted to do this together, and he’s lived in Cooperstown his entire life.
“I moved here last fall and we started looking for business ideas or a place where we could start something up, and we came upon the former Penguin,” she said. “It piqued our interest and we spent the winter talking, then we finally took the plunge and closed on May 1. We looked at this as a nice, seasonal business that, hopefully when we’re both retired in a few years, we can spend summers at and then travel the rest of the year.”
Rost said, after closing on the 4.5-acre property, she and Snyder “got real busy, real fast,” renovating and readying for their Memorial Day Weekend opening.
“We changed some things on the interior to improve the flow and speed of service and we changed the name and look on the outside to improve the customer experience," she said. "We opened three weeks later for the season, so that was a crazy couple of weeks.” The previous owners, she said, operated the stand for 10 to 15 years before retiring.
Improvements, she said, included tripling outdoor seating; paving and tenting the outdoor area; adding menu items such as hot dogs and soft pretzels; and setting up cornhole and KanJam courses on the grounds.
But one key element, Rost said, remains unchanged.
“The ice cream is the same and that’s what really attracted us to the business,” she said. “In talking to friends, neighbors and people from the area, and from our own experience, we knew the ice cream was fantastic and that people loved it.
“We have traditional soft-serve sundaes, but our specialty and what most of our sales are, is custom-blended ice cream,” she said. “We start with a vanilla or chocolate (hard ice-cream) base, then blend in anything the customer wants. There’s real fruit, candy, hard candy, nuts — the customer can really custom design their ice cream and have it made to order.”
Cooper’s Barn, Rost said, offers 45 mix-in options.
Popular blends, Rost said, include a peach cobbler spin-off featuring a vanilla base with fresh peaches, shortbread bits and cinnamon, and a “cookie monster” made with cookies and cream pieces and cookie dough.
Rost said a diverse clientele proves the adage about who, exactly, screams for ice cream.
“It’s anybody and it’s absolutely a mix (of locals and tourists)," she said. "People from out of town will come early in the week and then every day after that, saying, ‘Oh, my god. This is the best ice cream we’ve ever had and we have to get it while we can.’
“(The response) has been really positive and encouraging,” Rost said. “We have people telling us they love what we’ve done and thanking us for keeping the ice cream the same and keeping (the business) alive. People are in great spirits and it’s wonderful to see how much they enjoy the ice cream. It’s a feel-good business.”
Rost said she and Snyder plan to explore “the potential of the property” after this season, possibly adding entertainment and more food items.
Cooper’s Barn is open from noon to 10 p.m. daily, with plans to remain open through Labor Day, and for weekends only in September.
For more information, find “Cooper’s Barn” on Facebook or follow @coopers_barn on Instagram.