For Mary Pat Dauria, growing up in Rochester, N.Y., meant growing up on Abbott’s Frozen Custard. Yet, she never imagined she would be serving the tasty treat for a living. Standing behind the counter at her Abbott’s location in Brighton, Mass., Dauria serves Pumpkin Harpoon and other bold flavors of custard to customers with a smile.
“I try to be at the store as often as possible,” she said. “I love being here, talking to customers, and preparing the desserts.”
Dauria moved to Boston over 30 years ago, where she met her husband, also a Rochester native. To visit her family, she travelled back and forth to her hometown quite often.
“The first thing I’d do when I got back to Rochester, before even going home, was stop at Abbott’s and get a chocolate turtle,” Dauria said. A “turtle” is a custard sundae on a stick with Spanish peanuts, fudge, and a layer of chocolate.
“My husband and I always joked that if only there were an Abbott’s in Boston, we’d never have to go back to New York,” she said. One day, her husband proposed that she bring the business to Boston, and she instantly fell in love with the idea.
Abbott’s Frozen Custard was founded in Rochester in the early 1900s by Arthur Abbott. Once he’d made enough money to sustain his horse racing interests, Abbott sold the small business to Rochester’s Schreiber family, who began to franchise Abbott’s locations and still operates the franchise today.
“I discussed it with them at a time when they were really looking to expand outside the New York area,” Dauria said. “I convinced them that New England would be a great location—since it’s one of the top consumers of ice cream—and they agreed to the idea.”
Though it took a few years to find the right location, Dauria opened her first Abbott’s in Needham in 2008. After the success of the Needham store, Dauria opened a bigger shop in the Boston-area in 2011, bringing custard to Brighton.
Although its Boston location is hours away from its home in Rochester, Dauria explained that the store has a surprisingly large fan base in Boston.
“The Rochester customers are almost like a cult,” she said. “They recognize the name, and they go crazy over Abbott’s.” The shop in Brighton also hosts “Rochester Nights,” offering patrons certain products normally only sold in Rochester, such as Zweigle’s hot dogs and special hot sauces.
Dauria explained that despite the presence of her loyal Rochester fans, many customers walking through Abbott’s doors have never tried custard before. Although there are areas in the U.S. where custard is more prevalent, most people don’t know what custard is, Dauria said, remarking that many mistake it for a form of pudding.
The process of making frozen custard is very similar to making ice cream. The two desserts share many of the same ingredients, though custard has more egg in its mixture. The key to the custard’s distinct flavor, however, has less to do with its ingredients than it does with what it’s made in.
“The key to custard really is the machine, which churns it slowly and takes all the air out,” Dauria said, explaining that to “legally” be called frozen custard it has to have a very low percentage of air.
Although the Rochester-based chain is expanding across the east coast, the recipe for Abbott’s custard has been kept a secret and is known by very few people. The dairy farm that provides the milk for the custard sells exclusively to Abbott’s. Once the base custard is made, it is delivered to all Abbott’s locations, put into machines, and flavored accordingly.
At the Brighton location, the flavors are different every day, but vanilla and chocolate almond—the shop’s most popular flavors—are always available. Dauria explained that she has created different flavors and items not offered at any other Abbot’s location, bringing her own style and flare to the franchise.
“Every weekend we run beer-or alcohol-infused flavors which have become extremely popular,” she said. Pumpkin Harpoon custard is one popular option, which is made by running flavored beer directly into fresh pumpkin custard. Malted chocolate Guinness stout as well as Jameson and Bailey’s mint are also local favorites.
The idea came to her about three years ago when Boston Magazine asked if she’d be interested in catering an event sponsored by Patron, for its XO Cafe launch. At first, Dauria wasn’t sure how to mix frozen custard and tequila, but she served her recipe at the event and it was a big hit. After that success, Dauria went on to invent more daring flavors, selling them at Abbott’s in Brighton.
“The Schreiber’s really like the Boston location because it’s a bit different than any of their other stores, which tend to be more traditional,” Dauria said. “They like to test things here.”
Looking forward, Dauria is planning to expand the catering side of Abbott’s, which has become more profitable than walk-in sales at her store. She has spent a lot of her time recently at large events, like weddings and business launch parties, but her favorite place to serve custard is right behind the counter at her Brighton store. She takes pride in providing Bostonians and Rochester natives with their beloved custard and introducing the frozen treat to new customers.
“At the end of the day, that’s why I opened the business,” she said.
Featured Images by Rebecca Moretti / Heights Staff