FULTON, NY – After a few tweaks to the ice cream machines this week Sweet Inspirations – Fulton’s drive-in ice cream and food joint, which hosts the original Saturday cruise night – will be open again for business.
“They’re coming on Monday to get the ice cream machines up and running,” new owner Kevin Niver told Oswego County Today on Sunday (June 15.) “We hope to have a soft opening this weekend, serving ice cream for the first few weeks until we get everyone up and trained.”
Having acquired the local landmark earlier this year, Niver, of Fulton, said the renovations inside and outside are nearly complete – including the repaving of the entire parking lot.
“Sandy Freeman, the previous owner, has been a great help to me,” Niver said. “I needed someone who knows the business and he’s given me all his contacts and helped me out the whole way.”
The 26-year business closed at the end of the 2013 season under a previous manager, with for-sale signs leaving the community uncertain if it would reopen.
In the meantime, Niver said he had the desire to open his own business since he was in his 30’s.
But working full time in refrigerant maintenance for 30 years at Birdseye and raising his two kids left little time for entrepreneurship.
When Pinnacle Foods announced to its employees in April 2011 that it was shuttering the Fulton Birdseye plant, Niver was on shift.
“The day they announced they were closing the doors, I was working,” he said. “You know what happened after that.”
When it was all over later that year, of the approximately 280 people laid-off, Niver was one of a half-dozen or so employees who relocated to the Wisconsin division.
“They treated me great,” he said. “I liked the people and really enjoyed my time there.”
But after about six months away he felt the tug to come back home. “All my family and friends were here,” Niver explained.
That family included a woman he loved and hoped to marry, so he made the decision to come back to Fulton and got a job working for Oswego Health.
Tragically, less than a year later, and as he made arrangements for a long weekend away so he could propose marriage to her, Susan Budd died after a freak accident at home.
“That was a year ago last week,” Niver said. “Time just keeps moving.”
He’s not certain exactly why he decided to revisit his desire to own a business, but with Susan’s passing and with his kids grown to young adulthood, he felt the time was now.
After flirting with the idea of opening a liquor store, he ultimately decided to take a shot at reopening Sweet Inspirations.
“I’ve never seen a place like it,” he said. “It’s been the original Saturday night cruise-in since Jerry, Barb and Jerry Truax Jr., opened the place in 1987.”
The Truaxs sold the business to Sandy and Stephanie Freeman in 2001.
In the last few weeks as Niver and his crew work inside remodeling and painting, people keep coming by to see if they can get an ice cream, Philly sandwich or a blooming onion yet.
“We had to put up traffic cones at the entrances to keep people out for now. It has such a huge draw,” he said. “Yesterday 12 to 14 bikers pulled in. This is one of their yearly stops.”
Although he didn’t have any sweet treats to offer last week, as soon as the ice cream machines are back online – which he hopes will be early this week, Niver will begin getting his staff trained just as the summer season gets underway.
“I had hoped to be open by Memorial Day,” he added.
With just a few more details in place, Niver said he is nearly ready for his soft opening.
“I’d like to hire some high school kids who’ll come back during summers after they go to college,” he said. “That way in the upcoming seasons they’ll be trained and ready.”
He feels it will take a few weeks for the new crew to get a feel for the work flow, then he’ll be ready to open the other half of the business – the dining room.
“Right now I’m looking to recruit maybe four good, experienced cooks,” Niver said. “I hope to have a kitchen staff with close to 10 people working. But I don’t want a teenager running my kitchen.”
Ultimately he hopes to employ half-a-dozen full time and as many as 25–30 part-time people during the peak months.
“Then we’ll have a Grand Opening,” he said.
As he brainstorms the possibilities for the future of his new venture the sky’s the limit.
Loyal to his future employees, he added that once he is fully staffed he would consider keeping the place open longer than just the summer season as a way to keep from having to lay them off and retrain new people every year.
“I’m thinking with the right people we can open as a regular sit-down diner with regular waitresses and waiters,” he said.
“But we’ll have to see,” he added. “Today I’m here to paint.”
Once he’s open, Sweet Inspirations business hours are expected to be Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Located at 801 W. Broadway Road (Route 3) of course cruisers and bikers are always welcome.