GILFORD — Sawyer's Dairy Bar marks its 70th anniversary this year and one thing that hasn't changed in all that time is the favorite ice cream of its customers.
Black Raspberry still is the favorite according to Larry Litchfield, who along with his wife, Pati, purchased the Lakes Region landmark 10 years ago and have succeeded in keeping alive the traditions of the iconic establishment int Gilford Meadow.
But there's more variety in the Black Raspberry area than there used to be according to Larry, who points out that it's also offered as Black Raspberry Chip, Black Raspberry Truffle and as Black Raspberry Yogurt.
And Sawyer's now offers 50 varieties of ice cream and churns out 10,000 gallons a year with Pati heading up the ice cream-making operations.
Litchfield says that he and his wife made a series of subtle changes to Saywer's since they acquired it, all of which were designed to keep the character of the beloved landmark while bringing customer-friendly operational changes.
''We gutted the back and completely rebuilt and modernized the kitchen and established a point of sale system and a kitchen management system and expanded the outside seating and remodeled the porch. We pushed the front wall out giving us a six foot by 30 foot addition which made us more efficient,'' said Litchfield.
He said the goal of Sawyer's is to get the food to the customers within eight minutes of it being ordered, a goal which has been met and has allowed Sawyer's to cut down on long customer lines and has enabled the restaurant to double its business since he and his wife took over.
''We couldn't do this without the young people who work for us. They learn a lot here and could run the place by themselves,'' says Litchfield, pointing out that some of the workers have six or seven years of experience.
Seafood has been a staple of the Sawyer's menu for years during which the restaurant earned a reputation for having the best lobster rolls on the Lakes Region. That tradition continues with the lobster rolls, fish sandwiches and haddock, scallop and clam plates along with a fisherman's platter and lobster bisque, and clam and corn chowders.
''We also go through a lot of hamburg and chicken,'' says Litchfield, who grew up in Chelmsford, Mass., and fell in love with the Lakes Region while attending Tilton School. He graduated from there in 1955 before heading to the University Denver, where he earned a degree in hotel and resort management. He went on to enjoy a successful career in business and finance.
He says that he and his wife enjoy the challenge of the business and are totally dedicated to making it a success with both working 15 hour days, seven days a week.
As part of the 70th anniversary, Sawyer's held a contest to name a life-size plastic cow which was in front of the restaurant for weeks. The cow, which was eventually named ''Scoops'', has been showing up in different spots all over the Lakes Region, most recently on Cow Island on Lake Winnipesaukee, which is only fitting as ice cream mix from Sawyer's was for many years delivered to Camp Idlewild for the camp's ice-cream making operation.
As part of the celebration of the 70th anniversary, Sawyer's will be holding a reunion at a date yet to be determined on a night during the middle of week in August for former employees.
Sawyer's was opened in 1945 by George and Ruth Sawyer as a small ice cream stand using milk from their own cows and was so small that only one worker was needed. Ruth convinced George that they should also sell coffee and it soon grew into a take out food business featuring fried food as well as ice cream. It soon became a popular destination for both tourists and locals and over the generations employed hundreds of local youths.
Judy Buswell of Gilford recalls working there in the summer of 1954 when a hurricane hit the area in August and blew down a sign across Rte. 11 from Sawyer's. She says that her mother called her at work as said there was a hurricane and that she was coming to Sawyer's to bring her home. She says that by the time her mother arrived, the sky had cleared and the sun was shining.
Ruth MacDougall, author of ''The Cheerleader" recalls working at Sawyer's during the summer of 1955 and says that she was stunned to see the changes made by the Litchfields when she visited Sawyer's in 2013 and told them that she had once scooped ice cream there.
John Cole of Laconia recalls working at Sawyer's in the summers of 1950 and 1951 and once spilling five gallons of strawberries and on another occasion pulling out of Sawyer's with two cases of bottled milk on the tailgate of the pickup truck he was driving being spilled on the highway.
But the most memorable event was striking up a conversation with two young ladies in a Massachusetts car one evening and arranging a date for the following evening with one of the young ladies who would within a few years become his wife. They have now been married for 60 years.
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