“It’s not going to be your average ice cream stand.” That’s the promise of Bob Siracusano, a Saugerties entrepreneur who, with his brother Larry, operates a chain of automobile dealerships that won’t pass for “average,” either. When you walk into Sawyer Motors at 166 Ulster Avenue, what you’ll see is not a bunch of shiny new Chryslers, Dodges and Jeeps parked indoors, but a museum of mid-20th-century memorabilia. “My brother and I collect this kind of stuff,” says Bob. “Ninety-nine percent of it is real and restored.”
Vintage gas pumps are everywhere, spanking-clean and rust-free. There are several kiddie rides, including a gorgeous miniature ChrisCraft speedboat, its hardwood hull shining under thick layers of marine varnish. You’ll pass jukeboxes, motor scooters, diner booths, soda and cigarette machines, early video arcade games, a carnival bumpercar, a telephone booth complete with Clark Kent changing into his Superman costume. Bob’s private office sports the décor of an old barbershop. At the foot of one wall hung with vintage posters are piled half-unpacked cartons of the latest acquisitions from the Siracusano brothers’ shared hobby.
Among Bob’s most cherished finds is a working Good Humor truck. He takes it to events held by local schools and not-for-profits and literally gives ice cream away — all part of an increasing commitment to supporting worthy causes in the community now that he has reached an age at which many successful business owners would opt to retire. Sawyer Motors’ annual Car Show, which drew a record crowd of some 15,000 classic car collectors and spectators to the Village of Saugerties earlier this summer, is a fundraiser that this year garnered $113,000 for local charities, with Diaz Memorial Ambulance Services and the Boys and Girls Clubs among the major beneficiaries.
While he finds giving back to the community rewarding in itself, Bob also simply has fun giving out ice cream. So, when the car wash that the brothers owned and operated for decades at the corner of Ulster Avenue and Teetsel Street, diagonally across from Sawyer Motors, reached a point of obsolescence that would’ve required about a million-dollar investment to renovate, they decided to do something entirely different with the site. “We said, ‘We love helping children, so let’s do ice cream,’” Bob relates.
What stands on the site now, awaiting installation of necessary refrigeration equipment and fixtures whose delivery was long delayed by post-COVID supply-chain woes, is a structure that looks on the outside the way Sawyer Motors does on the inside: as if it just fell out of the 1950s. The Siracusanos hired a designer who specializes in wrapping buildings in shiny stainless steel to get that classic Fifties diner vibe. Rows of black-and-white tile and bright red metal accents alternate with the chrome, and a big neon sign proudly proclaims Sawyer Ice Cream Co. up above. “It’s got the retro look,” says Bob.
There’s more to this decision than just a sense of nostalgic fun, however; it was strategic. Because the automobiles that Sawyer Motors sells are stored outdoors, the brothers needed a second parking lot where vehicles can be moved while the main lot is being plowed clear of snow. Instead of simply buying up some empty real estate, they decided to open a seasonal business whose lot would not fill up in the winter. Genius.
Once completed, Sawyer Ice Cream will have a covered patio with picnic tables, but no interior seating or drive-up window. Several walk-up windows line the front of the building. Behind a central dividing wall will be a 12-by-12-foot walk-in freezer, other storage and utility sinks. The ceiling and walls will be hung with 1950s collectibles visible from the front windows, Bob says, and even the outside of the building will feature such eye candy as a working coin-operated kiddie ride.
The period aesthetic won’t end with the décor. “We want our employees wearing uniforms that reflect the look of the building,” Bob says. And when the Grand Opening is held sometime this fall, he hopes to hire some roller-skating waitresses for the occasion. (Hudson Valley Horrors, are you listening?)
On the day HV1 paid a visit, August 4, there was still a lot of prep work left to be done: The new floors were being waxed, with appliances waiting offsite for them to dry. But Bob was ready to predict that the shop would be open to the public in two to three weeks.
Whether it’ll still be brutally hot, perfect ice cream weather by then is anybody’s guess. But autumn is still a good time to sample the more than 20 flavors of hard and soft ice cream, floats, shakes and sundaes that the new business plans to offer. There will be root beer on tap, egg creams, ice cream cakes and even nondairy offerings. We have a feeling that the Saugerties community will turn out for this, the same way that Sawyer Motors and the Siracusano brothers are ever ready to turn out for them.