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Vintage machines secret to Weber’s ice cream

By Kevin Kelley

Fairview Park

Countless times David Ford, owner of Weber’s Premium Custard and Ice Cream, has watched customers taste an ice cream cone and be taken back in time to childhood days spent at Euclid Beach Park, a long closed amusement park. He’s seen customers taste once again the unique frosted malt shakes from the long-gone downtown Higbee’s department store.

Weber’s, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this month, is a small ice cream store with just one table inside and a picnic bench outside. But the flow of customers is steady.

They come because Weber’s is the only ice cream manufacturer that can recreate Euclid Beach Park’s vanilla ice cream or Higbee’s frosted malt shakes.

“No place makes it like I do,” Ford told West Life. “I couldn’t either if I didn’t have the machines.”

Weber’s machines, which date from the late 1920s, are the secret ingredients. The machines, Ford said, are made of metal and had to be cast. They are the last of their kind, he added. Modern machines are made of stainless steel and contain iron, Ford said, which require the use of artificial flavors.

In addition, Ford’s machines, which were specially ordered by the store’s founder, Nathan Weber, were built according to an older standard that added significantly less air to ice cream.

The result is that a quart of ice cream made the old fashioned way is a lot heavier than a quart made the newer way.

“We have people from all over the world who want this,” Ford said of his unique ice cream.

Ford plans to begin shipping his ice cream packed in dry ice soon, he said.

While West Life was visiting the store at the corner of Lorain Road and West 202nd Street, a customer told Ford his father used to take him to the original Weber’s store on Hilliard Road in Rocky River. Weber’s has been in its present location for 29 years.

Ford first became acquainted with Euclid Beach Park ice cream in 1963 when his uncle, Sandy Raynewater, a current Fairview Park resident, took him there. Ford’s mother was moving to Northeast Ohio to attend graduate school and instructed her brother to take her children to “fun places” so they would come to like Cleveland. One fun place was Euclid Beach Park. Another was the basement of the downtown Higbee’s store where the frosted malts were sold.

Years later, Ford, was at Weber’s when he heard then-owner Mary Patton say she planned on boarding the place up. He couldn’t believe it because he thought Weber’s black berry ice cream was so good.

Ford, who had been revamping amusement park rides, offered to buy the store.

“When I bought this place, I did not know that they made Euclid Beach Vanilla or Higbee’s frosted malts,” Ford said.

He soon learned those two menu items would be his best sellers, with the Higbee’s malts slightly more popular than the Euclid Beach ice cream.

He also came to learn a lot about the history of ice cream making, much of that knowledge coming from a 96-year-old customer who ordered a double Euclid Beach vanilla every day. The customer, Ford said, had worked in the dairy business.

Following a custom begun by the store’s founder, Weber’s Fairview Park store opens for the season on the opening day of the Cleveland Indians’ season. The closing date, which was originally the end of the Tribe’s last game, was extended to Oct. 31 in light of the Tribe’s too infrequent post-season appearances, Ford said.

Weber’s also sells premium custard made “old style, made from scratch,” Ford said, with a minimum 12 percent butterfat, no eggs.

Ford recently launched a partnership with The Grille, a new restaurant in Cornerstone Plaza at the corner of Lorain and Clague roads. The Grille will sell quarts and pints of Weber’s ice cream to go.

Ford would also like to bring the frosted malts back to the old Higbee’s building, where a new casino plans to open

 

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