Seacoast Times Magazine by Chris Elliott
Annabelle the cow has been gazing up Ceres Street from the Annabelle's Natural Ice Cream sign for years. Entrepreneur and ice cream fancier, Alex David founded the gourmet ice cream company and ran it until 1993, when he sold the recipes, equipment, distributorship and company name to his former landlord, Lewis Palosky.
Palosky first moved to Portsmouth in the late 1970s. He purchased the 123 Market Street building and opened up an optometry practice called Eye Contact Unlimited.
Apart from his Portsmouth practice, he was a staff optometrist for the Hartford Whalers hockey team and the U.S. Olympic hockey team. After buying Annabelle's, he managed to run both it and his practice for two years before finally selling his interest in the practice. "I was pretty tired all the time back in those days. My golf handicap went from 12 to 18.
If optometry and ice cream seems an incongruous succession of careers, it doesn't phase Palosky. In fact, owning Annabelle's is something of a dream deferred for him. "When I first came up here I looked at a location right next door. I was ready to sign a lease and put in an old-fashioned ice cream shop. Two days later, Alex David introduced himself to me, and talked to me about his idea." Palosky read the sequence of events as an omen, leased the Ceres Street storefront to David, and Annabelle’s rapidly became a Portsmouth landmark.
After 11 years under his watch, David handed the reigns to Palosky. "As soon as the company became available, I purchased it." says Palosky. "There isn't much I really miss about the practice. I did what I wanted to do as an optometrist, and I still see all my old customers - only now they come see me for ice cream."
Palosky's approach to Annabelle's will be to address the wholesale market, and the ice cream vendor market exclusively leaving the manufacturers like Häagen Dazs and Ben and Jerry’s to battle it out in the grocery stores. 'I don't want to distribute my, ice cream to a Mom and Pop store that sells it in cones, and have the same thing available in a 7 Eleven store right around the corner. It would be unfair to our vendors. We have our niche right now, and we are felt throughout the industry within that niche.'
Like Ben and Jerry’s 's and Häagen Dazs, Annabelle's is a super premium grade of ice cream. Super premium ice cream criteria requires a 16 percent butter fat content, all natural flavors and no more than a 35 percent overrun. Overrun refers to the amount of air contained in a sample of ice cream. Typical ice cream manufacturers use 50 gallons of air to produce 100 gallons of ice cream. Annabelle's uses 35 gallons of air to manufacture the same 100 gallons. "I'd pump in less air if I could, but you couldn't scoop it out if it were frozen. You'd break your wrist every time you tried to dip it." Palosky says. There is no skimping on the goodies at Annabelle's either. For every 100 gallons of chocolate chip with Kahlua ice cream. Palosky and company use 75 pounds of chocolate chips. For those readers who cannot locate their conversion tables immediately, that's an ounce and a half of chocolate in every pint.
Annabelle's next business venture is super premium ice cream pies. Palosky recently purchased equipment that will form pie crusts, cut the three-pound pies into slices, and wrap each slice individually. This provides portion control to the shops and restaurants buying the pies and makes inventory and profit margins much more visible to the client than if the pies were shipped uncut. Palosky is still putting the finishing touches on the box design but he expects that the pies should be reads to ship by the end of June.
Palosky and his wife Linda are thankful to live on the Seacoast and have no intention of moving or getting out of the ice cream business. "Ice cream makes people happy This is a great job. I want to thank Portsmouth for making Annabelle's a success. I realize that in order to get down to Ceres Street, you probably have to pass several other ice cream shops. We really appreciate it."