Patty Walker, proprietor of the Huguenot Creamery in New Paltz, makes ice cream cones for Isabella and Kylie Lovitch of Montgomery. Photo by Lauren Thomas

Roughly one year ago, a well-known storefront on Main Street in New Paltz started to look a little different. What once was Vincent’s Beauty Salon is now the Huguenot Creamery. For the ice cream shop’s owner Patty Walker, the last 11 months have been pretty good.

Inside, Huguenot Creamery resembles an old-school drugstore where a soda jerk in a bowtie, paper hat and a crisp white apron might blend up a shake or create unique drinks — a shared memory of an all-but-forgotten past.

Since opening in mid-July 2011, the store has made it a point to cater to children. Walker fondly recalls teaching youngsters how to make their own shakes at home, and she sometimes lets kids behind the counter to press the foot pedal to operate the shaved ice machine.

“It’s just things like that that make it such fun,” the ice cream shop owner said.

Huguenot Creamery serves a slew of flavors from those standard, five-gallon buckets found at just about every ice cream place on the planet. But it also serves shaved ice, shakes, cookies and other treats. The store is also one of the only ice cream places in town that’s open year-round.

For just about any shop on Main Street in New Paltz, the dead of winter is a dreaded time of slow sales. From the second week of December until January, when SUNY New Paltz students come back, the merchants face a lean time. Townies and regular customers often stay home rather than brave the snow for a walk up the street to get a cup of coffee or grab a bite to eat.

“I managed to stay open all winter — by the skin of my teeth. But I was here,” Walker said, adding that the unusually warm winter probably helped sales.

Walker has a long association with both New Paltz and the building she’s currently occupying. She grew up in town living on Main Street and went to the Catholic elementary before it closed in 1970 and eventually became the Mountain Laurel Waldorf School. Most of her childhood memories of town involve a place that simply doesn’t exist anymore — a place where families with young children lived along Main Street, where kids would offer to help shopkeepers for the promise of a few cents with which to buy some candy.

“I was born upstairs, as a matter of fact,” she explained. Walker’s family has long owned the building that now houses the creamery and Anatolia Restaurant. “I’ve been caretaking since 1974.”

Part of the idea for even opening the ice cream shop came from Walker managing the building. In early 2011, the space that’s now Anatolia’s became vacant, as did Vincent’s barbershop. When she was thinking about what to do with the place, she kept noticing people downtown asking her one question repeatedly.

“I had many people stop and ask where they could get ice cream,” she said. “And I thought, ‘You know what? I’ll find you a place you can get ice cream.’”

Huguenot Creamery got an early bump in sales last year, almost instantly.

“I don’t know what I expected, but I opened July 16 — the hottest week of the summer,” she said. “The people would walk in — and even though they would be dragging — and they would spy that freezer and all of a sudden it was like magic. I mean, they just smiled from ear to ear.”

For more information about the shop, call 255-4259 or stop in at 78 Main Street in New Paltz. ++