Paul Nasrani walked through Grand Central Terminal on a cold wintry day when a moment of opportunity suddenly intervened, offering him the possibility to fulfill a childhood dream.
“Every summer, I’d spend a couple of weeks in August up in Lake George, in Silver Bay,” Nasrani recalled. “There was this well-over 100-year-old ice cream store that was everybody’s gathering place and I was allowed to have a hot fudge sundae, five nights a week, which was pretty awesome. That was etched in my mind as a child.”
Nasrani worked in Manhattan and became the CFO of a mid-size corporation, his days occupied with his professional work in finance and accounting, his nights at play feeding a love of creating ice cream.
“I started experimenting in a small studio apartment in Manhattan. Imagine this tiny place with one room and a kitchen you stand in, making ice cream at night and bringing it in to work for my co-workers every day,” he says. “They loved it. They even got me a bigger maker, which I had to put in the tub because I couldn’t fit it in the kitchen,” he laughs. “It was insanity, but it was fun. Any time I had a free moment I’d visit dairies and ice cream plants. I’d knock on doors and hope somebody would let me in. I learned a lot from people.”
It was this yearning he carried with him inside the cathedral-like building of the Grand Central Terminal, where among the bustling crowds on a landscape of marble he noticed some equipment from a former ice cream store up for auction.
“I ended up buying a machine. I quit my job. I put the machine on a trailer and moved up to Silver Bay,” he says. Nasrani set up shop in the hamlet of Silver Bay, which sits alongside Lake George, an hour’s drive north of downtown Saratoga Springs.
“I can remember being about 12 years old and sitting there thinking: someday I’m going to have an ice cream company and we’re going to sell the ice cream in the Silver Bay store. And I did do that. We did make ice cream there and we did sell it at the store.”
Nasrani founded Adirondack Creamery at Silver Bay and with a yearning for growth found a dairy in Kingston where he was able to design his own ice cream based on an old-fashioned recipe of cream, milk, sugar and egg yolks. More expansion followed. One of the company’s primary distributors is located in Saratoga on Edie Road, and a dairy production facility in Queens enabled Adirondack Creamery to release all-natural flavors in pint packaging that could be sold at retail stores.
Today, the company boasts more than a dozen different flavors and includes seasonal favorites like Pumpkin Pie, Peppermint Stick and Egg Nog, and limited-edition offerings such as Caramel Apple, made only with ingredients from upstate New York.
The latest flavor is a Syrian date and walnut creation inspired by the middle-eastern treat, ma’amoul.
“I’m not Syrian, but immigration really reflects on my own personal life, my own family history. I grew up in a part in northeastern Pennsylvania where most of the people were ancestors of coal miners who came in the late 1800s and the 1900s for the same thing. They were suffering and there was famine. They were persecuted and came here to live a different life and to have a future,” Nasrani says.
“My father was emigrated from post-partition India in the ‘60s in Pakistan, trying to get away from discrimination and find opportunity and growth, to have a family and be able to be who he wanted to be. My mother’s family dates back to the Mayflower and the pilgrims – and those people also came here looking for a better future - and so all of that has had an impact on me personally.”
Nasrani found out about a Syrian refugee family who started making ma’amoul treats and selling them online.
“I ordered a whole bunch of them and I loved it. That’s when it all clicked,” Nasrani says. “I thought: you know let me make an ice cream flavor and see if I can put this together. The idea is that what’s unique about this is that in America we adopt flavors from other countries, put them in our kitchen and make them our own. The ma’amoul ice cream follows that same line. You know when people share food it breaks down a lot of cultural barriers. It reminds us that we’re more similar than we are different.”
The label’s packaging proclaims “Peace” in Arabic, English and Hebrew and is designed to bring focus to the plight of Syrian families seeking refuge who do not have a voice. Nasrani is donating half the profits of the ma’amoul ice cream to the International Rescue Committee. The organization responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.
You might wonder what a love of ice cream does to a person’s personal life.
“When I met (the woman who would be) my wife, she assumed I was some boring finance guy. On our third date I told her, ‘You’re not going to want to date me anymore. I’m quitting my job and moving up to Lake George.’ I thought she was going to be like, ‘Goodbye. You’re not going to make any money and you’re moving.’ Well now we’ve been married for 12 years and have two kids,” Nasrani says. “I won her over. It’s been an exciting journey.”
Adirondack Creamery’s Syrian Date and Walnut flavor ice cream is currently available at the following regional stores, with more stores to be added in the coming weeks: Four Seasons Natural Foods, 120 Henry St., Saratoga Springs; Just Meats, 1023 Route 29, Schuylerville; select ShopRite supermarkets in Albany, Colonie, Niskayuna and Slingerlands; the Honest Weight Co-Op in Albany, and Niskayuna Co-Op in Schenectady.