Kellerhaus is 110

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The Kellerhaus’s location since 1966 was built in 1908 as a home. (Courtesy photo)


LACONIA — A true northern New Englander will enjoy a dish of rich, homemade ice cream year round, even on the coldest of winter days. And on a summer-like Memorial Day weekend, the ice cream scoops are sure to be busy.

If there's a place that exemplifies this frozen dairy tradition, then it has to Kellerhaus, the ice cream and candy-making company located at Weirs Beach in Laconia, which is celebrating its 110th year in business this weekend.

Now owned by Mary Ellen and David Dutton, Kellerhaus will mark the Memorial Day weekend by offering free ice cream to veterans and current armed service members from Friday through Monday. May 28 will be "Super Hero Saturday," when, from 1 to 6 p.m., anyone who comes wearing a super hero costume will be treated to free cake and ice cream.

Before Ben & Jerry's, and before Friendly's, Kellerhaus was making its own ice cream. Company lore says that when Otto Keller began making ice cream in the early 1920s – using ice harvested from Lake Winnipesaukee and tons of rock salt, as modern refrigeration technology hadn't been developed yet – he was the first to do so year-round.

But the Kellerhaus story actually goes back even further, to 1906, when Keller arrived in Laconia from Merrimack, and by the end of the day had secured a job at Phillips' candy store. Though he was nearly destitute when he first arrived in Laconia, Keller owned the downtown store within a year.

The world, and Laconia, has changed much in the century and a decade since then, and the Keller family proved that they had the determination and vision to survive. In the Great Depression, Otto added a tea room to keep the business going. World War II, with its sugar rationing, proved a bigger challenge for the business, which by then had seen sons Seth and Pitman join the operation.  1943 was perhaps the business's most difficult year, when Seth left to join the armed services.

Another major disruption was on the horizon in the 1960s, when the city was planning its urban renewal project, which tore down several blocks of the city center, including the building housing Kellerhaus. Though Seth and his wife, Peg, who were then running the candy business, had planned to relocate to a spot over the Meredith town line, a friend suggested they consider a tract of land and grand 1908 home on Route 3 in The Weirs, with views of the lake and mountains beyond. The property, built by Myron Hart and known as Hartland, was quickly purchased by the Kellers, who build an addition, expanded the business to include gifts, and opened in May 1966.

When the Kellerhaus opened in its Weirs location, Seth had a new innovation to unveil, the now-famous ice cream smorgasbord, a buffet-style sundae bar. As Mary Ellen explained, the concept had its critics.

"When Seth decided to do make-your-own sundaes, his dad Otto thought it was a bad idea, that he'd never make any money," she said. Seth proved his dad wrong, as the smorgasboard was a smash success. In 1974, a reporter for the syndicated news service United Press International took notice and wrote an article about the long lines of tourists that waited for more than an hour, rain or shine, to make a sundae exactly to their liking. The article noted that the Kellerhaus ice cream is the richest in New Hampshire, with 16 percent butterfat.

"People have to remember that there wasn't anything else like this in the area," said Mary Ellen, of the smorgasboard phenomenon. Imitators have since appeared, which means that those who wish to visit the Kellerhaus today don't have to wait in the rain for hours.

Still, Mary Ellen thinks the Kellerhaus has something that the others don't: their ice cream, still made the same way it has for nearly a century, and made once a week during the winter and twice each week during the summer. In the busy season, Kellerhaus will produce 700 gallons of ice cream each week. Each batch is made by David Dutton.

"We're super fresh. It's constantly being made," said Mary Ellen. Each batch of ice cream, now made with almost exclusively all-natural ingredients, is prepared on site, in the same 1929 York ice cream machines that were passed down from the Kellers. And, all the same recipes, too. The Duttons expect to serve 70,000 ice cream customers over the course of the summer.

The most popular ice cream flavor, because it's most amenable to toppings, remains vanilla. Young patrons have shown an affinity for the "cookie monster" and "moose poop" flavors, while their parents tend to like cherry chocolate chunk and cookie coffee. Mary Ellen prefers the simple coffee or chocolate ice creams.

Although the Kellerhaus has had to prove itself agile to survive for 110 years, changing its business model and even its location, one thing that hasn't changed is its commitment to delicious, house-made, high-quality recipes. The Duttons still use the same index card file of recipes, each of which have been amended by the hand-written notes of generations of owners before them.

"We're back to basics, but we never left them," she said.

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The ice cream smorgasboard at the Kellerhaus features home-made toppings to go aong with the home-made ice cream. (Courtesy photo)


Bicycle Exchange helps LRCC students


LACONIA — The Laconia Area Bike Exchange, now in its third year, has been able to provide about 300 bicycles to those in need of transportation during that time.
It now faces a major challenge in the days ahead as it looks to come up with 18 bicycles for exchange students who are staying at Lakes Region Community College this summer and will need them to get to and from work at Dunkin' Donuts.
Nick Walton, residence director of LRCC, stopped by the exchange Tuesday afternoon to talk with John Rogers, founder of the exchange, about the need for the bikes and Rogers said he would be reaching out to the community in an effort to locate bikes for the students.
Rogers said that the exchange is benefiting this summer by having a college student help out with repairs and operating the exchange, which is located at 343 Court St., next to Eased Edges.
Jack Schrupp of Gilford, a Williams College student, says he heard about the exchange during the winter and contacted Rogers about working there.
"It's a good cause and there are lots of people in need of transportation, to get to work or doctor's appointments," said Schrupp, who is a graduate of St. Paul's School in Concord and has skied with Gunstock Nordic Federation. "There's a lot of work to do here."
The exchange was the brainchild of Rogers. Having worked with troubled youth in the past, Rogers would take bicycles that he found, fix them up and give the bikes away so they could get to school and get out for exercise.
As a result of his experience with the Landmark Education program, Rogers said, he realized that his idea could be expanded into the community, and brought his idea to Better Together's annual celebration in December of 2013.
"It received a positive response. From there, with support from Better Together, the city of Laconia, civic leaders, Piche's, MC Cycle, and New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the Laconia Area Bicycle Exchange was created and opened its doors two years ago in March."
He said the primary purpose of the exchange is to provide a means of inexpensive alternative transportation in the form of refurbished bicycles, made available to people who would benefit with greater mobility as it relates to work, family and personal living. A referral program is used by working with area human service organizations that refers people to the exchange. Personal referrals and demonstrated need also qualifies someone to receive a bicycle. Bikes locks and helmets are also offered.
Rogers says that new this year will be a $10 fee for the bicycles, which he says will give those receiving them a sense of ownership about the entire process.
He said that long-time volunteers Cliff King and Peter Bixby have helped repair the bikes the last couple of years and that Joe Bush of Belmont, another adult volunteers, has been extremely helpful in repairing and stripping bikes which have been donated.
Rogers said the greatest need is for adult mountain bikes of any condition.
Hours at the Bike Exchange are Tuesday, 4 to 5:30 p.m.; Thursday, noon to 1 p.m.; and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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Jack Schrupp of Gilford, a volunteer with the Laconia Area Bike Exchange, is working to repair bicycles at the exchange's workshop on Court Street. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Meredith ponders new library locations


MEREDITH — A week after the Board of Trustees of the Meredith Public Library voted to leave the Benjamin M. Smith Memorial Library, a panel charged with selecting a site Tuesday appeared to question the vote to move to a new location in its report to the Library Planning Committee.
The panel wrote "we must be absolutely sure the public approves the abandonment of this historic town facility" and continued, in italics for emphasis "Before that decision can be openly and transparently made, we need a robust dialogue on whether to abandon the present site and a reliable quantitative measure of what the public wants."
Meanwhile, Duncan McNeish said that four criteria were applied to prospective sites for a new single-level library. The lot should between three and four acres in size with frontage on one or more major thoroughfares with prominent visibility. In addition, the panel sought a property within easy reach of Meredith Center.
The panel recommended three properties in order of preference — one on Barnard Ridge Road, another on Plymouth Street and a third, known as the Robertson property, at the southwest corner of the roundabout between US Route 3 and Parade Road.
A number of sites were considered only to be eliminated as either too small or too distant from the town center. These included the former home of Aubuchon Hardware at the junction of US Route 3 and NH Route 25, the Lang Street School, the Orthopedic Clinic at NH Route 4 and Winona Road the former Department of Public Works on Daniel Webster Highway and lots on on Upper Ladd Hill Road and Jenness Hill Road.
The Planning Committee will meet again on Tuesday, May 31, to further consider the panel's report.