Enfield's Collins Powder Hill Farm has been around for generations, at one point transitioning from chickens and egg production to dairy operations. In the 1990s, owner Jack Collins approached his son-in-law, Tony Bellafronte, about adding an ice cream shop to the property.
"I laughed; I really thought he was crazy," says Bellafronte, who is married to Collins' daughter, Michele. "[I thought], we're out in Nowhereville, no one's going to come. … Well, I was wrong."
In 1997, the family opened Collins Creamery on the grounds of its 180-acre dairy farm, just south of the Massachusetts border. Collins bills its location as the "quiet side of town," and its bucolic, agrarian setting feels a world away from nearby busy shopping centers — far enough that visitors aren't even sure they're still within Enfield's town limits, Michele Bellafronte says.
Word of mouth spread quickly, and over 19 years, the seasonal business has earned a loyal following for its freshly made, super-premium product in a growing variety of flavors. "And now we're making ice cream 24/7," Tony Bellafronte says.
Collins' ice cream is made from farm-fresh milk — in a "roundabout" way, he says. The farm sells its raw milk to a farm co-op, then Collins Creamery buys processed milk back from Guida's. The ice cream is made on-site daily, then solidified in holding freezers at temperatures as low as minus-35 degrees.
"Our ice cream is literally days old. It's as fresh as can be. That's why I think people like it," Bellafronte says. (And at 16 percent butterfat, it's an über-rich treat.)
Visitors will find about 30 daily flavors, from the most traditional vanilla, chocolate and strawberry to many more creative batches.
"Collins Compost," a brownie batter/Oreo cookie blend, is so popular that Bellafronte says he can hardly keep up with its production.
Recent recipes include a "Bailys Bomb" with an Irish cream-flavored base and golden Oreos; carrot cake, tiramisu and lemon meringue pie. Regulars also love coconut chocolate chip, toasted almond, red velvet and "Collins Mud," a peanut butter base with Oreos. A "Christmas in July" flavor melds peppermint, white chocolate and pretzels. Daily options include low-fat and sugar-free flavors, along with yogurt and soft serve.
Ice cream is available in cones and cups (and a four-flavor sampler for the indecisive); an assortment of sundaes, including turtle, brownie, peanut butter cup, strawberry shortcake and banana splits, and beverages like milkshakes, root beer floats and soda coolers. Milkshakes make up a significant percentage of sales, Bellafronte says.
Prices range from $3.25 to $7.75 for cups, cones and sundaes, and drinks are $5.50 to $6.25. Most flavors are also available in pints, quarts and half-gallons ($4.75 to $9.50) and, in response to customer demand, Collins began making ice cream pies and cakes ($16 to $45) for special occasions several years ago.
The ice cream shop starts scooping in early spring — 2016's mild winter helped Collins open its doors in late February — and usually closes in late October or early November, depending on weather. On summer nights, families and youth sports teams will line up at the window, then sit with their treats at picnic tables. Amid the pastoral setting, sometimes visitors will catch a "big whiff" of cow manure, Michele Bellafronte says, laughing.
In nearly two decades, the family has served countless scoops, employed teens that they first met as babies, contributed to several local fundraisers and continued to have fun with experimental flavors. Michele, an Enfield teacher, credits her husband with the creamery's success.
"Tony has really made this place what it is," she says. "He's so determined to do things … [asking] 'What can I do better?' That's what makes this place work, because he's so driven."
Collins Creamery, 9 Powder Hill Road, Enfield, is open daily this summer from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. 860-749-8663, thecollinscreamery.com.
This summer we're telling the stories behind Connecticut's beloved seasonal restaurants — the destinations that open for an all-too-brief time period in fair weather. These are the small lobster shacks with the buttery rolls you crave in January when you're shoveling snow, the ice cream stands that throw open their windows with the first warm breeze, the beach-town eateries where the salt of fried whole belly clams and onion rings is enhanced by ocean air. We'll publish features in Thursday's Flavor and CTNow sections throughout the summer. Find the series at ctnow.com/summersweetspots.