For more than two decades, the Dairy South Street introduced sweet flavors to Morristown.
Get ready for another one: Persian ice cream.
“It’s unique,” he says reza “Ricky” Manesh, who bought the building and shop from the Garcia family.
The flavor – which expresses hints of saffron, rosewater and pistachio – is one of the few changes planned by Manesh, who opened this Marjan Fine Persian Grill on Speedwell Avenue in 2010.
When he heard that, his friend Ken Garcia Hoping to retire from dairy, Manesh recalls telling him: “You’ve worked too hard for 22 years to get it where it is. It would be a shame if someone came in and changed everything.”
Manesh says he plans to keep the same sunny setting that has made the Creamery a morning haunt for new moms, a popular lunch stop and a popular spot for children’s birthday parties and little league celebrations.
Eileen Mejia will continue to run day-to-day operations, with the same staff of high school and college students who seemingly grew up behind the counter.
Although this is Manesh’s first ice cream shop, he made Persian ice cream at Marjan, the restaurant he named after his wife.
Manesh boasts decades of confidence as an entrepreneur and businessman, having emigrated from Iran following the 1979 revolution, where he was a professional volleyball player.
He played volleyball in Canada for a time, he says, and was a restaurant chain manager for several years.
With “$10 in his pocket” and a young family, the naturalized citizen then opened a small shop in Madison, selling pagers during the day and delivering pizzas for Domino’s until 1 a.m., he recalls.
In 1991, Manesh started a cell phone business in Madison. He would open AT&T franchises in East Hanover, Roxbury, and downtown Morristown, keeping the latter through 2009.
“I’m grateful to the United States,” says Manesh, who has two adult daughters and five grandchildren. “Here you can be who you want to be. Doors are open. Nothing will stop you if you try… If a pizza driver can do it, anyone can.”
‘A BEAUTIFUL, CLEAN, HAPPY SPACE’
The Garcias stayed close this month to ease Manesh’s transition.
“We are all so happy that a wonderful new family has bought the company,” he says Lori Ann Giardina, the smiling public face of the dairy for his whole life.
Giardina’s father, Ken Garcia, cashed in many of his AT&T stocks to buy the building in the late ’90s.
“He wisely said that he would like to invest in our family,” says Giardina. “My dad always said he wanted a family-friendly restaurant with a nice, clean, happy space and affordable prices. That’s what we’ve been trying to do throughout our time here.”
While Ken did the shopping, Giardina’s mother took care of Arlene Garciacontributed soup recipes, baked biscuits and lent a hand when needed.
Giardina’s brother-in-law, peter williams, ventured to Italy to learn how to make gelato and to the University of Wisconsin to learn homemade ice cream. Giardina’s sister carla also made a detour to the Creamery.
Before opening in 1999, Giardina says the family frequented corner shops across the country. A Connecticut store owner advised that each member should oversee some aspect of the store.
“Whoever is responsible for this area has the last word. That’s why it was so successful. At the very end we all said what a great experience it was,” says Giardina.
She enjoyed many sweet moments – readings from children’s authorsUkulele jam sessions, visits from Santa – and some bittersweet ones at the Creamery.
There she met her husband jeff, the love of her life. And that’s where the community rallied around them both when he bravely fought a terminal form of cancer.
Giardina is looking forward to more time with her sons justin and Christian, a high school student who still works at the dairy. And her parents will get a chance to really retire.
“You would never stop going in if Peter and I were there,” says Giardina. “We all had to retire at the same time.”