Entertainment

Scoop: Notes From A Small Town Ice Cream Shop

by Christopher Verleger
Contributor
Friday May 23, 2014
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Jeff Miller, author of "Scoop: Notes from a Small Ice Cream Shop," invites readers to share his first year as the owner and operator of an ice cream parlor and guest house in a small Wisconsin town after uprooting his lavish life in London with his partner, Dean.

In this detailed, earnest account of Jeff and Dean’s transformation from big city lawyer and salesman to Midwestern proprietors, which could also serve as a travel journal for Hayward, Wisconsin, and an advisory to small business owners in resort towns, "Scoop" features an endless cast of colorful characters and an assortment of amusing, enlightening anecdotes, narrated with sincerity, spirit and grace.

Broken up by season, Jeff and Dean’s adventure begins in the spring, shortly after they arrive in Hayward with their dogs, Spike and Freddie, in tow, ready to begin their new lives. Now the owners of West’s Hayward Dairy, a local institution, and a dilapidated mansion to be refurbished as the McCormick House Inn, the couple slowly learns to adjust to the customs and idiosyncrasies of their new surroundings, which includes longtime dairy employee (or fixture, rather), Buck, who teaches them the pivotal skill of operating the ice cream machine.

When summer arrives, accompanied by a series of fairs, festivals and token holidays, their ice cream business soars, while construction continues in the guest house, slated for a fall grand opening. Despite the expected challenges with staff and the occasional irate customer, throughout it all Jeff never once longs for the life he left behind, nor does he second guess his decision to make his dream of a new life become a reality.

Fall welcomes the opening of McCormick House, while the customer service line for ice cream continues to shorten, until the desolate Wisconsin winter, when Jeff is encouraged to learn the card game, cribbage, which helps pass the time. The couple also takes advantage of the down time during snowstorms to take ski lessons and make a return a visit to London.

The adventures of Jeff and Dean are engaging, admirable and will likely spark some feelings of envy among those of us who wish to trade the rat race for something more serene. I would have preferred the memoir were more even more personal (conversation between the two men is minimal, so I often found myself wondering about their life at home alone), since it reads like a catalog or calendar of events.

Miller provides remarkably impressive, intricate descriptions of daily activity and interaction that allows the reader to feel like an actual shop customer or visitor in town. "Scoop" triumphs as a love letter to Hayward and its inhabitants, while inspiring anyone considering a change in career or life.

Scoop: Notes from a Small Ice Cream Shop
Jeff Miller
Minnesota Historical Society Press
$17.95

Chris Verleger is an avid reader, aspiring novelist and self-professed theater geek from Providence. Email cwverleger1971@yahoo.com.

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