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
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
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
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
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 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.