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Summertime Eats: Dorman's Dairy Dream in Thomaston
08/23/2013   Reported By: Patty B. Wight

Nothing says summer like a creamy, dripping ice cream cone. Maine has no shortage of seasonal scoop shops, but one in Thomaston has been the bread and butter for a local family spanning three generations - and counting. As part of our Summertime Eats series, Patty Wight recently visited Dorman's Dairy Dream.

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The view of Dorman's Dairy Dream from Janice Cross's house.

Even on a rainy summer afternoon, the stream of customers at Dorman's is steady. "May I have a sugar cone with coffee ice cream?" says one.

Janice Cross observes the scene from a cozy chair in her family room, where a window gives a direct view to the ice cream shop that's in her front yard on busy Route 1 in Thomaston.

"My father - Kendrick Dorman - had been looking around and saw that there were ice cream places and they were doing pretty good," Cross says. "And he figured that he would try it, and he expected to be open for a year - that's all he figured it would last. And here we are going on our 63rd season now."

Her dad built the house behind Dorman's Dairy Dream a few years after he opened the shop. But while most kids dream of having an ice cream shop in their front yard, that's not how Cross saw it when she started working there at age 13.

"I didn't like the hours, because we had to work long, long hours, and it wasn't anything that was special," she says. "But it is now."

Cross worked at the ice cream shop on and off into adulthood, and eventually took it over in 1987. She was going through a divorce at the time, and it helped her to support her kids.

Julie Sanborn: "Hi, I'm Julie Sanborn. I've been working here at Dormans since I was 12. I worked for my grandfather and I worked for my mom."

Like her mom, she never planned to take over the business - until she and her husband Darryl were faced with two realities: Her mom was ready to retire, and the Sanborn's 22-year-old son, Darryl Jr., has dreamed of running the business ever since he was little.

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Left to right, Darryl Sanborn, Jr., Julie Sanborn, and Darryl Sanborn Sr.

"He's too young right now to take over, so Darryl and I talked about it and we said, 'Well, why don't we offer? And if she wants us to take over to pave the way for our young man, we can do that," Sanborn says.

Now, Sanborn and her husband run the ice cream shop. Darryl Jr., makes all the the ice cream, a skill he learned from his grandmother.

"My first few years I was here I was always the helper with her. So I always watched what she did," he says. "And when she was having her knee replacement, she asked me - she's like, 'OK, so now I'm going to teach you how to do all your ice creams.' I was like, 'Oh I know them all.' She was like, 'No you can't.' I listed off the recipe for every single one, and she was very surprised. Ever since then, I have it all in here."

Dormans 2Darryl taps his finger to his head. As far as long-time customer Jerry Stone (right) is concerned, he's doing a stellar job. "I'm 65 soon. I've been coming here since I was about three years old," he says, "coming from Cushing, Maine, down the road here with my own family."

And his long-standing favorite, ever since he was a kid, is pistachio. Stone says what makes Dorman's Dairy Dream great is not just the ice cream, but the history and family. Darryl Sanborn Sr. says family was a major part of the appeal when he and his wife decided to take over the business.

"Even if you're working, they can be here," he says. "When you take a break, you can have family around you. And even if you're working long hours, you still have family around you."

For Janice Cross, whose dad started it all, she says Dorman's Dairy Dream has turned out better than she ever imagined.

Photos: Patty Wight


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