Kingston has made a comeback as a manufacturing town, albeit on an artisanal small-scale level, producing encaustic paints, pottery wheels and kilns, nut cheeses, cutting boards, quality cabinetry, branded T-shirts, stationery, high-end furniture and other items. Most of these businesses are located in repurposed factory buildings in the industrial belt of Midtown along the railroad tracks, so it comes as a surprise to learn that one of the city’s premier products is made in the heart of the retail district, right on Wall Street.
Founded in 1985 in Phoenicia, Jane’s Ice Cream is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and it has much to be proud of, having become one of the region’s premier makers of ice cream. The ice cream is sold in over 100 outlets from Brooklyn to the Berkshires, including a bookstore and Hamilton’s Soda Fountain, which resurrects the lost pleasures of the soda fountain in the trendy West Village. Locally, Jane’s Ice Cream is sold just 200 feet away from where it’s made, at Diane Reeder’s Kingston Candy Bar. It’s also sold at Hannaford, Adams Fairacre Farms, and Emmanuel’s in Stone Ridge.
The roots of Jane’s Ice Cream, which is owned by Amy Keller and her husband, Bob Guidubaldi, go back to the syrup company Amy’s grandfather, Irving Keller, started in Brooklyn. Amy’s father, one of three boys, raised his family in New Jersey, but she and her siblings grew up with an intimate knowledge of hot fudge sundaes and egg creams and worked in the restaurant business. Amy’s sister Jane apprenticed in France to become a chef and worked in a series of high-end restaurants in the city, before moving to Phoenicia. She opened the store “after she discovered she was overqualified for every job available,” according to Amy. Amy, who is often mistaken for the eponymous Jane, left her job in hotel management in Washington, D.C., to help her sister Jane run the ice cream store she had opened in Phoenicia. Amy met her husband, Bob Guidubaldi, in town, and he soon joined the business.
Two years later, when the restaurant moved to Uptown Kingston, the couple kept the name that Jane had casually scrawled on a sign. (Jane eventually left the business to earn a master’s in education and became a full-time teacher; she continues to be involved as a consultant.) The restaurant did a thriving lunch business. “IBM was here and it was the county seat, so you could not walk in the street” during lunchtime hours, recalled Amy. “There was also less competition. We attracted an eclectic group, although not everyone wants to eat congee and nori rolls for lunch. Samosas and matzo ball soup were our fixtures.” The ice cream was also a popular item, and eventually the wholesale side of the business grew to the point where they were able to close the restaurant and concentrate on supplying the ice cream to restaurants, stores, hotels and farm stands.
Originally, they offered 32 flavors, but now that number has more than doubled and continues to grow. According to Amy, “our best sellers are Vanilla Bean, killer Chocolate, Coconut Almond Joy and Cappuccino Kahlua Calypso,” a rich version of coffee with nuggets of luscious coffee candies. The couple create new flavors every year, a task that meets the consumer demand for novelty and enables them to experiment and be creative. Recent creations include Apricot Orange Blossom, Pomegranate Molasses, and Seduction (nomenclature is also part of the fun), a combination of roasted and salted sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds. They also developed a flavor, Currants and Cream, using a puree made from currants grown at a local farm, Crop Pharms. The ice cream is made from hormone-free milk, with and all the flavors are concocted from natural ingredients.
Amy and Bob escort me from their second-floor office on Wall Street down to their manufacturing operations in the basement. After passing through a corridor lined with walk-in blast freezers — at minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, each of the whirring, frosty steel-lined interiors is an arctic experience — we enter a small, tidy, cave-like room with two gleaming, metal batch freezers, high-tech equipment in which the ice cream is made in small batches. A worker is extracting a creamy ribbon of peanut butter-flavored ice cream into a series of small cardboard boxes; into each box of freshly poured ice cream, he inserts several fudge sticks. After spending 24 hours in the freezer, the ice cream is delivered to the clients, in two and a half-gallon and one-gallon containers as well as pints, by a Jane’s Ice Cream truck.