Ribbon Cut

Top Hat Creamery Grand Opening and Ribbon Cut set for Tuesday, June 11th

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[June 11, 2019]  If you live in Lincoln, there is a very good chance that you have already heard of Top Hat Creamery. The new ice cream shop located in the Arcade building on Pulaski Street across from the Logan County Courthouse, has enjoyed a very busy soft opening for the last couple of weeks.

Now, as they get the wrinkles worked out of opening a new business, they are ready to have a grand opening event on Tuesday, June 11th at 4 p.m. The community is invited to attend the ribbon cut, and of course, stay after for an ice cream treat!

Top Hat Creamery has been a real labor of love starting with a love for ice cream. Owner Lisa Mestinsek recently sat down for a few minutes to explain how the new business in Lincoln came about.

First, it was the family’s love of ice cream that spurred the idea. Mestinsek said that she, husband Jonathan, and their three children Lillian, Burke, and Reilly love to seek out unique little ice cream shops when they travel. She noted that there is one in particular in northern Minnesota that the family visits every day when they are in that area.

Then, there was the thought that Lisa wanted to own a business and wanted that business to be one that she loved. She loved ice cream.

And then there was Guzzardo’s. Lisa noted that she and Jonathan are friends with Nick and Shelly Guzzardo. The Italian restaurant doesn’t offer a lot in the line of dessert. The Guzzardo’s own the small storefront in the Arcade building that was vacant, and located straight across from the Guzzardo garden.



Lisa recounted that she had been in conversation with Nick and Shelly Guzzardo about the lack of dessert offerings at the restaurant. It was then that Nick piped up and told Lisa she should open a bakery in the vacant building across the way. Lisa rejected that idea immediately saying she was not a baker and didn’t want to be.

However, that single conversation may have planted an early seed. About a month later, when the family was once again traveling they made their usual trek in search of ice cream. “We stopped in an ice cream shop and I looked around and thought ‘I can do this’. We got back in the car and had gone down the road a little ways when I looked at my husband and said, “I want to open an ice cream shop!” He laughed and said, “You do?” I said yeah, and the next thing he said was, “Do you know how much ice cream you would have to sell to make any money?” And then began their journey.

Lisa said that night she stayed awake in their motel room, researching ice cream shops on her laptop. The next morning she told her husband that she was committed to this idea. He was very supportive and suggested they talk to Nick Guzzardo about his space and see where it would lead.

Lisa said the building was being used as storage so it was floor to ceiling cleaning out, cleaning up and setting up to turn the space into a retail business. She also said that she had a lot to learn about what would be needed and required to operate a food handling business. As an example, she talked about the number of sinks in the small building. There are seven, each with a different purpose. There needed to be ADA accessible restrooms, and then freezers and storage, and much more.

In the midst of all this, the Mestinsek’s son Burke developed a health issue that was very concerning for the family, and the dream of the ice cream shop was put on hold. Putting their son ahead of their dream was a no brainer for Lisa and Jonathan. They spent the next few months tending to the health issues of Burke, but then in November of last year Burke was given the all clear on his health problems, and the dream once again came to life.

Lisa said that they began searching for equipment for the shop and found some of the most important components in Washington, Illinois, where a business was closing. They decided to invest in good used equipment now with plans of upgrading and purchasing new items as time progresses.

Jonathan noted that some of the upgrades are going to be coming sooner rather than later, and Lisa agreed. In addition to ice cream, the shop offers a soft-serve fruit based product called Dole Whip. Lisa said the soft serve machine they purchased is an air cooled machine. The problem with that is that it heats up the room. Jonathan noted that the air conditioner they installed can’t keep up with the heat that is coming out of the machine, and Lisa agreed that they were going to be searching sooner rather than later for a soft serve machine that is water cooled.



The interior of the building is compact, with a couple of tables and a very large ice cream freezer with a glass front that holds 16 large tubs of ice cream. The walls are pristine white with one deep red accent wall on the far end of the room.

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Lisa said the accent wall is the work of their daughter Lillian. Lillian is 17 and a student at University High in Normal. Lisa says she is very artistic and the idea of the accent wall was all her. The wall contains a large silhouette of Abraham Lincoln holding an ice cream cone, no doubt from Top Hat Creamery.

Lisa said the venture has been a family adventure with everyone pitching in right down to their six-year-old daughter Reilly, who has become quite proficient at putting stickers on the ice cream cups as well as other age appropriate tasks.

In addition to the help of family, Lisa has four staff members who are working hard now that the shop is open to help make it a success.

The additional manpower at the shop includes Manager Julie Tanner, and staff Emily Martinez, Casey Bennett and Abigail Fitzpatrick. Lisa says that the soft opening began with a bang, and in the second night they were open, the shop actually ran out of ice cream. She said that the staff was amazing in what they did that night, and took it all in stride even with the challenges. She noted that they all jumped in and got it done with a line of people extending outside and the girls still learning the ropes, and still she felt that customers left happy.

Lisa said that the success of the shop has also become a community project. She notes that Nick and Shelly Guzzardo have been very supportive and also that the fine folks at Spirited Republic have been there to help out as needed. She noted especially Colleen at Spirited has helped Lisa a lot with figuring out the cash registers and learning how to handle the large volume of customers that are lined up outside the building every evening.

Lisa also took a cue from Spirited in one of her menu items. At the ice cream shop one can purchase ice cream with 16 flavor options of the hand scooped variety, or they can buy the Dole Whip which is a non-dairy, gluten free, pineapple based dessert. They can buy a cone or a cup, get a sundae with lots of topping options, or they can order a milk shake or a malt.

And for those who can’t decide, Lisa said that following the example of Spirited Republic, she has put a ‘flight’ on the menu that includes a total of four small portions of ice cream. So, for those who can’t decide for sure, but can narrow it down to only four choices, they can order the flight and try all four.

Now for the ice cream. Lisa said that since starting this project the family has learned a lot about ice cream and they have somewhat become “ice cream snobs.” In their research they learned about quality ice creams and that those considered to be “premium” quality had a butter fat content of at least 10 percent. Lisa says when you compare ice creams based on butterfat content, you really can tell the difference.

The family did their ice cream research, and Lisa said they finally chose a product made in Madison, Wisconsin, by a company named Schoeps (pronounced Sheps). It is a premium quality product with the high butterfat content and it is the best they found. It is also distributed locally by a Springfield distributor so they have quick and easy access to their inventory.

Lisa said that getting the shop going has been a tremendous amount of work, but she has loved it all. She has had some pangs of guilt though that she expressed to Jonathan one night. Was she spending too much time away from family, too much time focused on the shop and not enough time with the kids?

Jonathan reminded her that the kids have been knee deep in the process and are as much a part of this new venture as he and Lisa are. But most importantly, he said that what he saw was someone living by example, showing her children that dreams can become reality with hard work and dedication. What better blueprint than that for raising a family?

If you love ice cream, there is a chance you are already familiar with Top Hat Creamery, but if you haven’t been there yet, please mark your calendars and join the Martinsek’s on June 11th for their Grand Opening Ribbon Cut.

The shop is open six days a week. Hours on Tuesday through Friday are 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday the shop opens at noon and closes at 10 p.m.

For the ribbon cutting on Tuesday the 11th, the shop will open at 4 p.m. We hope to see you there.

[Nila Smith]

 

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