WEEKEND - From 'Keller Vanilla' to 'Moose Poop", Kellerhaus makes 700 gallons of ice cream a week. (544 words)

LACONIA — With its hand-made ice cream and candies, Kellerhaus at Weirs Beach has been a wellspring of taste and tradition treating sweet tooths in the Lakes Region for more than a century.

Otto Keller opened the candy store in 1906 and added ice cream in the 1920s, making Kellerhaus the oldest source of candy and ice cream in the state. Since 2004, Dave and Mary Ellen Dutton have owned and operated the business with an eye to ensuring quality and honoring tradition.

With the original York machine of 1930, used by Otto, Seth and Pitman Keller, the Duttons make some 700 gallons of ice cream each week and go through 70,000 dishes and countless cones each year. "It's kind of finicky," Dutton remarked of the ice cream maker, "but if anybody breaks it, it's going to be me." Fortunately, the working machine is one of a pair and he can turn to the other for spare parts.

The Duttons make 20 flavors, offering at least a dozen at a time from the same scooping station the Kellers used in the 1960s. Kellerhaus features a "smorgasbord," where a sundae can be fashioned with any number of nearly two dozen toppings at no additional charge.

"Keller" vanilla, the most popular base for these chilly treats, is the top seller, though cookie monster, a blue vanilla laced with Oreo cookies, is the favorite of most children. Apart from the staples of chocolate, strawberry, coffee, black raspberry, maple walnut and mint chocolate chip, there are the exotics — cherry chocolate chunk, dough boy, cookie coffee, chocolate chocolate chip and peanut butter chocolate chip. Dutton explained that because "moose tracks" is a protected trademark he searched for an alternative moniker before settling on "moose poop," which arouses curiosity among the kids.

The Duttons also make a number of the toppings, following the recipes used by the Kellers and prepared fresh each day. Not only is there hot fudge, whipped cream, raspberry and butterscotch, but also a unique marshmallow topping and a very chocolaty cold chocolate sauce that Dutton calls "grandma sauce."

Wednesdays at Kellerhaus are "dollar cone days." Dutton said that in 2007 he hatched "a crazy idea" to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Kellerhaus and what began as a celebration has become a tradition. Mary Ellen said that the line may snake throughout the store on Wednesdays.

In another departure from tradition, Dutton said biodegradable dishes and spoons have been introduced. "I was walking on a lovely beach in Mexico and saw these plastic spoons being washed on to the sand and decided 'that's enough!'" Likewise, two years ago the Duttons added soft serve — vanilla, chocolate and twists — and this year sorbet, but have not included frozen yogurt among their offerings.

"This is really three businesses," Dutton explained, "ice cream, candy and gifts." A former chief financial officer, he noted that when the books close each year, business is divided evenly between the three. He said that in the decade since they acquired the business sales in the off-season have outpaced trade in the summer, which given the quality of the ice cream is hard to imagine.

Kellerhaus is located at 259 Endicott Street North (Rte 3) at Weirs Beach and is open on weekdays from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Abagail, with a helping hand from her mother Jennifer, fashions a sundae with selections from the array of toppings on offer from the ice cream smorgasbord at Kellerhaus. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch).