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Back home with Sweet Melissa

BY CAPTAIN D

SCOTT FITZGERALD to the contrary, you can go home again. Sometimes, anyway. You can if you're Melissa Ford and home is Sullivan, Maine. She is back where she began, none the worse for wear, and she couldn't be happier about it.

After high school in the early nineties, she hit the road with some friends and travelled about the United States. When she got back to Maine, she worked in Bar Harbor for awhile before giving birth to daughter Genesis in 1996 and moving back to Sullivan.

In Sullivan, she waitressed at Bob and Kathy's and later, in Ellsworth, she worked at Morton's Cafe before acquiring the business from Sarah Morton. Part and parcel of this deal was the rights to Morton's Homemade Ice Cream, a popular premium ice cream treat.

“I always wanted to have my own restaurant near where I live,” she says. “I was continually thinking about how I would organize a nice little cafe.”

Last year, her dream came true when she opened Sullivan Harbor Cafe on Route One. Now she really was home again, putting down roots in a business just a few minutes from her house.

The Sullivan Harbor Cafe gives one a good feeling. It is sparkling clean and highly appetizing. She spent all of November last year getting the place ready for a December opening. Smack down in the middle of a major recession, this was not an ideal winter for starting a new restaurant. But thanks to a bent for hard work, Melissa has made it prosper.

Now, in the Spring of 2010, she is making a major addition, Sweet Melissa's Ice Cream Shop.

The shop, housed in the same building as the restaurant, is initially featuring the 16 flavors of ice cream Melissa acquired from Sarah Morton. But Melissa has ideas of her own, and promises that once she gets going she will add flavors of her own.

The shop should be a great place to visit. There will be free WIFI for people traveling with their laptops. Melissa's ice cream is as good as ice cream gets. Nobody does it better. She says that during summer she expects to be open every evening. Come winter, she'll play it by ear.

“In Ellsworth, people came in for ice cream right up to Christmas,” she noted. “People eat ice cream year round.”

What's the secret of good ice cream?

“Lots of love,” she laughs, and, after a moment's reflection, “along with great ingredients.”

She gets all her cream from Garelick Farms right here in Maine. Her ice cream is 15 percent butterfat, which qualifies it as super premium.

“It's very creamy and has a lot of flavor,” she asserts. “If you try to do something with less butterfat, it just doesn't taste the same. It doesn't have the richness and fullness.”

Melissa sells ice cream retail in pints and quarts and hopes soon to get it featured in local restaurants. After that she may go regional and (who knows) maybe nationally eventually.

“Who knows?” she ponders. “You never know, I guess. This whole place could one day be a big ice cream production shop!”