When he was a kid, Dan Walker lived in a house on Cottage Street, not far from downtown Littleton. Three doors up the hill from his house, in an old Victorian, was Bishop's Homemade Ice Cream. To young Dan, this seemed normal.
"I thought everyone had an ice cream shop a few houses away," he says, laughing.
He remembers how, as a kid in the early 1980s, his parents allowed him to walk to Bishop's by himself, so long as he stayed on the grass of his neighbors' lawns.
"There's no one that doesn't have a memory of here, I don't think," he says.
His wife, Jade Walker, also grew up in the neighborhood.
"My high school graduation cake was an ice cream cake from Bishop's. But I have other memories as well, because I worked here," she says. For five seasons, Jade Walker scooped ice cream at Bishop's.
All these memories seemed more precious the day—about two years ago—a "For Sale" sign appeared on Bishop's lawn.
"You don't think about those memories until the 'For Sale' sign goes up and then you're not sure if those memories will carry on," says Dan Walker.
So the Walkers and their business partners, Stephen and Kasie Pilgrim, started talking. It was just fantasy at first. A wouldn't-it-be-neat-if-we-bought-it type of chat.
Later, when their existing business turned a profit, the conversation about buying Bishop's turned serious. They looked at all the factors, including the rental property upstairs, and the math seemed to work out. So they took the leap and closed the sale last November.
Included in the purchase: all the recipes for Bishop's homemade ice cream, which meant Dan Walker had to learn how to make it.
"So, in general, how good are you at cooking things?" I asked Dan.
"He doesn't burn the house down, but he doesn't spend a lot of time cooking," says Jade. "However, he knows his ice cream really well. I think he's got that down to a science now."
In what they're calling the milk room in the back of the shop, Dan demonstrates how the ice cream maker works.
"It's a closed system. Everything goes into the chamber. It goes in at refrigerated temperature, and when it comes it out it has the consistency of soft-serve."
By this point, the machine has mixed in all the added goodies like crushed Oreos, peanuts, fudge chunks or fruit. From there, the ice cream sits in the freezer for about a day before it's ready. Fans of Bishop's will be pleased to know that the new owners will not be tinkering with the classic recipes for black raspberry or the medley flavor, Bishop's Bash.
"Bishop's Bash is chocolate ice cream, brownie chunks, chocolate chips, and walnuts."
There might be a few changes on the horizon. This fall, Bishop's may start selling maple syrup products and hot coffee.
For now, though, the Walkers are focused on opening day, Mother's Day weekend.
And when Bishop's opens for its 43rd season, another generation of Littleton residents, like the Walkers, will walk up Cottage Street, pass through the doors of Bishop's Ice Cream, place an order, and form a memory.