Terry Gelber, 64, formerly of Queens, spent years bringing his carnival-inspired ice-cream stand dreams to life. Since early May, he’s been serving scoops and smiles from Daisy Queens Ice Cream at 10 West St. in Walton.
“I bought the building maybe 12 or 13 years ago,” he said. “I was going to put a Dairy Queen here when I retired, but that took longer than I thought and when I went back to Dairy Queen, they said they could no longer do it.”
Gelber said he worked previously as a New York City cab driver, building the city’s first private cab driver training school in 1996.
Though the Walton site was home to other ventures, Gelber said, Daisy Queens is the distillation of a vision, paying homage to his city roots and his life partner, Deissy Riano.
“When I opened the building, I built an antique cappuccino bar … and I did fruit, which was OK … but I let it lay for about 10 years,” he said. “Deissy is an artist and she always wanted to run a cafe, so we came and played around and I said we could paint it up and we made a gallery. We spent a year doing that.
“She makes these greeting cards that are unique,” he said, “and I started helping her on that while we sat here trying to sell coffee, but people wouldn’t come in. The problem here is traffic. They had two ice cream places in town; one had just closed, and the other one was packed, so I said, ‘We’ve got to put ice cream here.’”
The resulting stand’s throwback stylings and whimsical touches, Gelber said, draw from his time spent working in carnivals.
“Back in February, we redid the siding with red, white and blue and we put up a wall, took out the coffee machine and put in the (machines) for dips, shakes and flurries,” he said. “I took the old garages and had them sand down the floors, then we painted them with red speckled paint and bought old retro tables with red chairs. We put tables out front with umbrellas … and the minute we did, people started pulling in.”
The refurbished garage space, Gelber said, is designed to host children’s birthday parties, with custom ice-cream cakes included in party packages. Gelber said he also plans to purchase nearby property to someday add attractions.
“In the mid-'80s, I traveled with the carnival and I loved it,” he said. “So, I’m going to kind of build my own carnival. Whatever I was doing 30 years ago, I’ve gotten back to it in my mind. I always thought a merry-go-round would be the ultimate attraction … and I’m seeing about (buying) the auction lot across the street and using that, in my grand fantasy, as a summer stock theater and expanding the amusement.”
Daisy Queens offers hard and soft ice cream, Gelber said, along with specialty treats.
“We do vanilla, chocolate and black raspberry soft serve,” he said, “and aside from a simple cone, which we give free sprinkles with, the hot item is a hot fudge sundae. Shakes and flurries probably run on par with sundaes, and the chocolate shake is huge. That and the chocolate shake with peanut butter.”
Gelber said he’s enjoyed building his clientele, which includes “people from Downsville, Delhi, Sidney, Bainbridge and Deposit,” alongside Walton locals.
“May 5 we turned (the machines) on and people started coming in and we were going like gangbusters,” he said. “City folk were all up in the hills and we were allowed to open once we got our certificate, because it’s a to-go business. I love to watch it when people come in, there’s just a stream of cars and it’s a phenomenon.”
Gelber said he is seeking artists to join Riano’s work for a Fourth of July exhibit inside Daisy Queens. Gelber said he and Riano also plan to introduce tacos to their menu.
Daisy Queens is open from noon to 9:30 p.m. daily. For more information on specials and giveaways, find “Daisy Queens Ice Cream” on Facebook or call 718-683-8224.