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East Windsor's Dari Delite Opens for Its 57th Season

Town's outdoor ice cream parlor is an institution, according to co-owner Julie Cortese.

Dari Delite. Photo credit: Ted Glanzer
Dari Delite. Photo credit: Ted Glanzer
In 1956, Dwight D. Eisenhower won his second term as the president of the United States, Elvis Presley released his first gold album and Don Larsen pitched a perfect game for the New York Yankees in the World Series.

It was also the year that Dari Delite opened in East Windsor on Route 5, right on the border of South Windsor.

Now in its 57th year, the no-frills shop (no video games, no indoor seating, open April through September) has served countless patrons in the area with low-cost, high-quality ice cream.

South Windsor resident Erica Carey said that she has been a patron for eight or nine years because of “good ice cream and cheap prices.

“It’s the best of both worlds.”

Much to the, uh, delight of local residents, Dari Delite reopened for business this season two weeks ago.

And, while the outdoor ice cream shop is an East Windsor institution, a lot has changed since the store originally opened, including who runs the place.

Julie Cortese, an East Windsor native, is now one of the co-owners, taking over for her goddaughter, who moved to Florida.

“It’s been in the family for so long, I couldn’t give it up,” Cortese said.

Indeed, prior to Cortese’s goddaughter’s stewardship, Cortese’s aunt, Julia Shonosky, owned the place after taking over what used to be a franchise from two brothers who abandoned the business.

“This was [Shonosky’s] baby,” Cortese said in an interview Friday. “We all lived next door. Whenever we got busy, my mother would run over here. ... [For me to take over the business] would be their dream.”

Back in the early days of the business, Cortese talks of a quaint time in which two drive-in movie theaters in East Hartford and East Windsor bookended the ice cream store.

“We always had traffic; people going to the movies with their families,” she said. “It kind of died off. Then I-91 came and we lost a few customers, but we have loyal customers who have been coming here for years and years and years.”

Indeed, Dari Delite has endured, surviving challenges to satisfy local sweet tooths from upstarts like Dairy Queen on Sullivan Avenue, South Windsor, which eventually closed in the late 1980s.

When asked if she was concerned about the new Dairy Queen that is set to open in its old location, Cortese jokingly said, “We put them under once, we’ll do it again.”

If Dari Delite continues to thrive, it will be by sticking to its core of delicious soft-serve ice cream (chocolate and vanilla), hard ice cream (in a variety of flavors), parfaits, sundaes, myriad candy toppings, and hot dogs - all for sale at reasonable prices.

On a busy summer night, Cortese said that she serves hundreds of people.
Cortese, for her part, said that the joy is in hearing stories from people who came to Dari Delite as children and are now taking their grandchildren there for ice cream.

“They say they have wonderful memories being here as a child; they remember the flavors,” Cortese said. “I enjoy it. I love seeing the people.”

In addition to offering a great product, Dari Delite also is an integral part of the community. Cortese said that she and her cousin donate all of their tips to a local charity.

But Cortese said that the ultimate secret to the business’ success lies in the basics.

“We try to give a product that is worth every penny,” Cortese said.

Proof, as they say, is in the pudding - or in this case, ice cream.

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