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BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. — Stewart's Shops went back to its roots and opened a new store on Church Avenue, where the original Stewart's Ice Cream shop welcomed customers 70 years ago.
The store has been rebuilt from the ground up, expanding its food options and gas service. The New York-based retailer marked the occasion on July 9 with grand-opening festivities including half-price deals, pint ice cream eating contests.
In honor of the event, donations were made to the Ballston Area Recreation Commission and Reita Park, in New York.
The inaugural ice cream shop was located at the front of the dairy plant the Dake family purchased from Donald Stewart in 1945, which is where the Stewart's name came from. That small store later expanded to a Stewart's Soup and Sandwich Shop and was updated to a Stewart's Bread and Butter store after a fire in the 1980s.
According to Bill Dake, chairman of the board at Stewart's Shops Corp., his father and uncle — P.W. and C.V. Dake — operated Saratoga Dairy in Saratoga Springs but wanted to expand south. They then purchased Stewart's Dairy in Ballston Spa, which at the time consisted of a dairy that they maintained as a distribution center, an ice cream plant that was closed due to World War II's sugar rationing, and a closed store that sold ice cream and milk.
After the war, Bill Dake's brother Charlie — a World War II veteran — used his ability to get sugar to reopen the plant and start manufacturing ice cream. The rest, as they say, is history.
"What really is amazing is that on this piece of property where there is just a Stewart's store and gas presentation now there was a diary, an ice cream plant and a shop," said Bill Dake, chairman of the board. "This site kind of mimics the evolution many of our shops have gone through over a period of time. It is interesting that as we evolved we went from being an ice cream shop to a dairy shop to a coffee shop to a gasoline location to your family diner."
To hear Bill Dake discuss the company's history, click here.
Today, Saratoga Springs-based Stewart's Shops has 331 locations across upstate New York and southern Vermont.