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Dairyman Nick Charlap honors tradition with ice cream business

Wherever Nick Charlap goes on vacation, he stops at an ice cream shop to test its vanilla ice cream. Vanilla, he said, is the base from which many flavors are built. Even his doggie sundae features vanilla ice cream topped with a dog milk bone.

The family dairy business began in 1926 when his grandfather and namesake bought a dairy in Black Rock. It continued when his son Henry Charlap bought a dairy in North Boston in 1961. That dairy – today operated by Nick Charlap – is located on Boston State Road and has become the production hub that churns out 43 flavors of ice cream.

With retail locations in North Boston, Hamburg, West Seneca and Angola, Charlap soon will dip into another summer tradition. Last year, he purchased the parcel in Angola that was once home to Grandview Drive-In. His plan is to start the drive-in back up in the near future.

Charlap, who is 54, lives in North Boston with his wife, Mary Beth, and daughter, Mackenzi, 14.

People Talk: You seem to have a knack for resurrecting businesses.

Nick Charlap: In 2000, when the company that purchased my father’s business stopped production of ice cream, they put the machinery up for auction. I ended up buying all the equipment, actually a whole room of machines that I had run for years. It cost just under $20,000. I was a nervous wreck.

PT: Does your father remain active in the business?

NC: He puts all the labels on the containers. We run 3-gallon tubs, half-gallon containers and quarts. We run 50 to 75 half-gallons per flavor. He makes sure to put the label on the lid, dead center. He’s 87 and has a different flavor ice cream cone every day.

PT: What was it like growing up the son of a dairyman?

NC: You didn’t have to always eat all your food, but you had to drink your milk. We didn’t drink 2 percent or skim back then. It was whole milk.

PT: What were your original career plans?

NC: I wanted to be a baseball player or a basketball player, though the best thing I thought I could have done was be a professional bowler. I averaged 200 when I was 16.

PT: What do you do for fun?

NC: I love going downtown. I love the water. I love Sunset Bay. I have an RV, and we love to take in a NASCAR race two to three times a year.

PT: What’s your go-to flavor of ice cream?

NC: Cashew caramel crunch. That’s the one that people come for. This year we created one flavor where you think you’re biting into an almond joy bar. It’s called coconut chocolate almond. The kids in the Angola shop thought of that one. My favorite is vanilla. I eat ice cream maybe three times a month in a hot fudge sundae.

PT: Did you ever think of buying an ice cream truck?

NC: We found one of those in Angola. I bought it for $7,000 eight to 10 years ago. We take it to seven or eight events a season. I’d like to get it out to more. It’s an old 1974 electric truck, an ice cream parlor on wheels.

PT: Your ice cream has 14 percent butterfat. How does that compare with other ice creams on the market?

NC: Products range from 8 percent to 16 percent. We still give you a full half-gallon. Other brands of ice creams have taken a little out of their half-gallon containers. If people would check the weight, they would see 1.75 liters. That is not a full half-gallon. That is two scoops less. Our half-gallons are 1.87 liters.

PT: What has the business taught you?

NC: To be honest.