Food & Drink

Why An Upstate Auto Dealership Opened An Ice-Cream Shop

As you’re driving down Ulster Avenue on the way into town in Saugerties, N.Y. about 100 miles north of New York City, your eye is attracted to a glitzy new two-story building that houses Sawyer Ice Cream Company. It opened in mid-October 2022 and is owned by two brothers, Bob and Larry Siracusano.

The duo runs Sawyer Motors, a Chrysler/Dodge/Ram/Jeep auto dealership, showroom, and service center, a block away from its new ice cream emporium, and also operates Sawyer Chevrolet in Catskill, N.Y. They’ve owned Sawyer Motors for 32 years.

But ice cream and auto dealerships aren’t a natural fit, so why did the brothers open up this dessert shop? Were they trying to create an offbeat new revenue stream? Change your oil and dine on an ice-cream cone while you wait perhaps?

Two savvy entrepreneurs have opened an ice-cream shop in upstate New York dedicated to having fun, hiring talented kids, but whether it can turn a profit and be self-sustaining is the question that needs to be answered.

According to Bob Siracusano, whose enthusiasm for life, automobiles, 1950s and 1960’s memorabilia, ice cream and his community, is palpable, making money wasn’t the motivating force to build their new shop. He and his brother already owned the land which housed a car wash previously, but what he wanted, was to give his family including his beloved grandchildren, a place to get involved in.

Already his daughter serves as manager and his 15-year-old grandson and 17-year-old granddaughter are working there. It’s clearly a family affair. Money, he vows, wasn’t the driving force. “If I break even, I’ll be happy.”

Asked how much it cost to build the two-story building, he declined to answer. “If I tell you, my wife will find out,” he replies.

And Saugerties, which consists of two main streets that span about four blocks, already has two ice-cream shops flourishing. So why open a third?

“I don’t think they’re competitors,” Siracusano says. “We have a lot of people come from out-of-town who have heard about it.” When Sawyer’s adds a kiddie ride, where children can play, it’ll attract more people, he suggests.

And the two floors of Sawyer Ice Cream Co, contain no seating whatsoever. It’s for storage on the second floor and dishing out the ice-cream on the first floor. So why no indoor-seating which clearly would have enhanced business in the frosty winter months of upstate New York?

Siracusano explains that the dealership takes priority, not the ice-cream shop. “When it snows, I need to move 150 cars into its parking lot so I can plow the outside of the dealership. Now I have a place to move the cars,” he says. Hence, no indoor seating permitted.

Currently, there’s outdoor seating for about a dozen people, but that will increase to about 50 to 60 people in the warmer months, with a canopy overhead.

The day this reporter visited in early November, there were four people serving ice-cream. Why so many when the temperature was barely hitting 50 degrees? “A lot of those people were in training. We want to make it right when we open in spring, and we’re ready to rock and roll,” says Siracusano, who is 72-years-old and spent his formative years in College Point, Queens.

The ice cream it serves stems from a variety of manufacturers, from Pennsylvania and locally. “We did a taste test and picked the best ice cream that was available,” he says.

He also acquired a vintage 1950’s Good Humor ice cream truck, which he intends to park in front of the ice-cream shop. In the past, he’s used the truck in town to deliver free ice cream to seniors and school kids.

His goals are straightforward. “Our goal is to employ a lot of local kids. Then hopefully some day they can go to work for the other businesses, which happens all the time,” he says.

In the future he sees adding food to the menu, but he’s not quite sure what he will be selling. As a confident, season entrepreneur, he vows, “We will turn a profit.”


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