Abbott’s Frozen Custard brings a scoop of Rochester, N.Y. to Hamilton

When Theresa Axelrod was a little girl growing up Rochester, N.Y., her dad worked as a foreman. Occasionally, he would tell all the neighborhood kids that if they cleaned all the tools out of his truck and hosed it down, he would take them to Abbott’s Frozen Custard for a cone.

“We’d have 10-12 kids in the back of the pickup truck, and my dad would drive us over to the Abbott’s at the Rochester International Airport,” Axelrod said.

The kids would get their Abbott’s cones, and they’d sit along the runway watching the planes take off.

“It’s just a very, very vivid, sweet memory of my childhood,” Axelrod said.

It took years of persistence, but Axelrod’s now in the business of giving those sweet memories to a new generation. Axelrod and her husband, Stu, opened up their very own Abbott’s Frozen Custard in Hamilton June 28, 2012, near the Hamilton AMC 24 movie theater on Sloan Avenue.

“It was my father’s birthday,” she said. “I choose that day as a way to sort of honor him.”

Axelrod moved to North Jersey in 1981, away from her home in Rochester and those childhood cones. One of the things she missed most about home was Abbott’s, which only had stores in Rochester.

After Axelrod met Stu, the couple talked about opening up a business together. She told him it was her dream to open up an Abbott’s. Axelrod contacted Abbott’s Frozen Custard owner Gail Drew in 1991. At the time, Abbott’s ownership didn’t want a shop outside of Rochester because they wanted to preserve the integrity of their product, and they weren’t sure how they would get the ingredients to distant locations.

Axelrod moved on to work in the logistics industry, and during a business trip to Boston, she heard an Abbott’s had opened up there.

“I just had to have one,” she said. “I walked into the Brighton, Mass. store, and I saw a woman behind the counter. She looked up, and I looked up, and we both jumped up and down and started squealing. It was one of my high school girlfriends.”

Axelrod had no idea the friend was living in the Boston area, and no idea that she had opened an Abbott’s. She took it as an omen.

A couple weeks later, Axelrod and her husband drove up to Boston to have dinner with the owners of the Brighton Abbott’s to discuss all the aspects of the business. From there, the couple began looking for a location.

“This is the way it is with all of the outside Abbott’s,” Axelrod said. “They’re not a big company looking to expand all over the universe. That’s not their idea. You have to believe in the product. All of the locations outside of Rochester are owned by former Rochester residents like me.”

The ingredients at the Hamilton location still come from Rochester, and everything is made fresh in the individual shops.

“The first week I was open, I got a phone call at the store from a guy asking if we were the Abbott’s from Rochester,” Axelrod said. “I told him we were. He said there’s a train station in Hamilton, and was wondering how close we were. I told him how it’s less than a half a mile. Turns out, he took a train from Manhattan to Hamilton, and a cab from the train station to the store just to get an Abbott’s.”

People are willing to go the distance for Abbott’s because it’s not your everyday ice cream; it’s frozen custard. Axelrod said it’s important for people to know the difference.

“Frozen custard is a premium ice cream,” Axelrod said. “It’s ice cream with sugared egg in it, with high butterfat content. I’m not going to kid anybody; this is not diet ice cream. This is the good stuff. It’s very creamy, very smooth and very thick.”

Abbott’s Frozen Custard makes its batches fresh every day.

“What you’re eating today was made today,” Axelrod said. “We make small batches throughout the day. At the end of the day, if we have anything left, we scoop it up and put it in pint containers for people to take home.”

Abbott’s carries up to 11 flavors a day, with about 45 different flavors total. They change their flavors daily and post them up on their Facebook page for people to check out. Three flavors remain constant: vanilla, chocolate and chocolate almond.

“Chocolate almond is a Rochester favorite, so that’s our signature,” Axelrod said.

Axelrod said some of the Hamilton favorites include cookies and cream, vanilla peanut butter cup, chocolate chocolate chip, blueberry cheesecake and pistachio pineapple.

“I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like the product,” Axelrod said. “It’s been a dream come true to have this part of home here with me.”

Abbott’s Frozen Custard is located at 199 Sloan Ave. in Hamilton. Phone: (609) 586-7800. On the web: www.abbottscustard.com.