An iconic ice cream parlor that’s about to celebrate 50 years in Warren County recently opened a new Butler County location, one that’s steeped in history and sweetened with tradition.
The Village Parlor of Hamilton at 302 Main Street features more than two dozen kinds of ice cream and an old-fashioned vibe.
Co-owners Aaron and Michelle Zwelling, who purchased the Lebanon location in 2014, said they saw the potential of a Hamilton storefront starting in 2016, when that city’s economic development team reached out to them about the available space.
“I never thought of Hamilton … but I went out to take a look and was really surprised to see what was happening in Hamilton,” Aaron Zwelling said. “I really had no idea that there was that kind of revitalization going on and they have a really great, passionate team there at the city making things happen.”
Zwelling said it was clear the storefront, which was home to Hughes Pharmacy, was a fitting spot in which to open because that business had an ice cream counter of its own.
“We’re about tradition … and we can continue the tradition of having an ice cream parlor in Hamilton where it’s always been for decades,” he said. “In the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, it was very common that (every small town) had a pharmacy with an ice cream parlor up front. Hamilton was no exception.”
To preserve the history of the establishment meant the Zwellings spending to refinish many of the storefront’s original elements, including its eight bar stools and an ice cream bar, one whose original home is traced back to the 1880s when it was an actual bar down the street.
During Prohibition, when Hughes Pharmacy opened, the business bought the bar and brought it over to use for its own ice cream bar, Zwelling said.
The Village Parlor’s partner in ice cream is Bexley, Ohio-based Johnson’s Real Ice Cream, a fourth-generation business that has been making ice cream since 1950, ice cream that Zwelling’s father grew up eating.
Zwelling’s roots in the ice cream business include 20 years working for Graeter’s Ice Cream. He said Village Parlor’s nearly 30 different flavors include a mix of classics and hard-to-find options, like rum raisin, banana fudge, coconut almond chip, butter pecan, moose tracks, black raspberry chip, cookie dough chip and cookies and cream.
Johnson’s creation of its wide array of ice cream on 1950s machinery allows it to have a lower air content, making it “thicker, richer, creamier and more flavorful” than most other ice creams, he said. Johnson’s also is flexible enough to partner with The Village Parlor on devising new flavors, Zwelling said.
The new Hamilton ice cream parlor, as well as its Lebanon counterpart, offer 15 different toppings, including fresh fruit and homemade nectar syrup, as well as sundaes, double dip sodas, brownie sundaes and a caramel banana sundae.
It also creates its own waffle cones in-house behind a glass-and-brass enclosure, allowing for guests to watch as each one is made fresh.
Zwelling said he and his wife divide work in the business. “She comes up with the great ideas and I make them happen,” he said.