Over 10 years ago, Ashley Viscariello worked at an ice cream shop on State Street.
And like any high schooler, she had a dream, albeit a very specific one: One day, she’d own the place.
She didn’t know when, or how, but she had a feeling she’d eventually be able to set up shop inside the big building with the brick pillars, one that’s sat there for over 20 years.
And in late March, that dream comes true when she and her husband Gabe open Stella’s Creamery & Cakes in that very same location — 2013 State St.
“The timing was right,” Viscariello said. “It’s a dream to own a business. For a lot of people, it doesn’t happen, but for us, it ended up working out.”
The purchase, for a variety of reasons, is a fresh start for the location formerly known as Bumpy’s Polar Freeze. Schenectady County Public Health Services ordered former business owner David Elmendorf to close last year following an uncorrected state health code violation and for refusing to enforce state-issued COVID-19 restrictions. Protests and boycotts at Bumpy’s erupted last summer, too, after Elmendorf was accused of sending racist text messages.
But that wasn’t the Bumpy’s that Viscariello knew growing up. And after closing on the property on Jan. 15, according to former owner David Byrnes, Viscariello said she’s ready to reignite the spark she once felt working at the shop, and the spark so many in the community have felt for two decades buying soft serve from the local landmark.
“My dream for this place is to bring back what used to be this really successful, family-owned place where people come with their families,” Viscariello said. “And to have these regulars where you know their faces. That was what I was used to when I worked there. So I hope to bring all of that back. And I hope that customers that were previously loyal will come back and give us a chance and hopefully become regulars of ours as well.”
Those customers can expect some notable changes to the location, which has a full-market value of $108,200 on Schenectady’s 2020 final assessment roll, changes that the new owners hope can bring a “new feel” for the ice cream spot. Some changes include a fresh coat of paint, internal fix-ups to meet code, a new set-up outside and some updated signage. The biggest change, of course, is the name Stella’s; an ode to the Viscariello’s two-year-old daughter.
“I wanted the place to have a significant name, I wanted it to mean something,” Viscariello said. “And I wanted it to have that family sort-of feel and attachment to it. I just knew right away that that’s what I wanted to name it after, was my daughter.”
But the family affair doesn’t end with the business’ name. Stella’s addition of cakes to the menu is Viscariello’s way of getting her mother involved. Immigrating from Guyana, Viscariello knew that following her passion meant helping her mother follow hers too.
“My mom’s dream was to always also own her own cake business,” Viscariello said. “And so when I bought this place, I knew I wanted my mom to have a great deal of attachment to it, and I wanted her to pursue her dream. For parents, and especially those of immigrants, their dream for their kids is to be successful. And so this was a huge milestone for me.”
Stella’s is set to open in the last week of March, Viscariello said, and in the meantime, they are busy making sure the correct permits are applied for and approved in advance of the big day.
“I really hope that we are welcomed with open arms and we can work toward gaining the respect back from the Woodlawn community and the Schenectady community,” Viscariello said. “We want to make Schenectady proud. Getting that respect back is what we’re looking for.”