Sundae Driving

By Mary Jane Cary and David Ford

From “The Ice Screamer“:

Euclid Beach Amusement Park, in eastern Cleveland along Lake Erie, was one of the nation’s best known amusement centers in 1910, when Henry and Theresa Soeder’s sons were old enough to begin business. So Henry founded the Soeder Sons Milk Company to sell dairy products, but the product that became famous was their ice cream. The Soeders established a Euclid Beach Park concession stand to sell ice cream cones, with Nathan Weber joining their operation as an intern in 1929, a year after Henry’s death.

Nathan enjoyed making ice cream, so he asked permission to open his own “stand.” The Soeder family agreed, as long as several criteria were met. Two of the most important requirements were that the product quality must never be cheapened, and the ice cream must be made using the same machines as those used by the Soeders. A special order, and Nathan’s patience and persistence would be required.

Nathan had learned to make Soeders’ Euclid Beach Vanilla ice cream using machines designed and built to specifications from Clarence W Vogt’s earliest invention, a first-of-its-kind Mechanical Compression Chiller, designed in 1909 to exactly replicate ice cream as it had been made since the 1850s, but with more efficient freezing, eliminating the need for placing ice cream in a cold room overnight to harden. Vogt discovered that his first freezers could indeed produce ice cream with sufficient overrun to be palatable to customers, a trait that had led to the Soeders’ original equipment purchase. But Vogt also discovered that his first units could not produce ice cream with enough overrun to be sufficiently profitable for manufacturers like the Eskimo Pie Corporation. Subsequent Vogt patents and models incorporated features to enable manufacturer-desired overruns, but the Soeders were not interested in these “modern ice cream” freezers.

So Nathan Weber waited for his order of two Vogt Chillers, until all of Vogt’s first pre-built “modern” units sold. Then, since the required barrels and paddles were built in sets of four, by casting the parts in sand molds, and then machining them, Weber persisted when he was told that “it may take as long as 2 years if no one else orders them.”

In 1931, Nathan opened Weber’s Ice Cream in the city of Rocky River, just west of Cleveland. He duplicated Soeders’ Vanilla ice cream, and added five new flavors – the first fresh flavored commercial ice creams. Because Weber’s two new 1909 style Vogt Chillers were made without iron (long known to dis-flavor all dairy foods), Nathan could use nothing but all fresh, natural ingredients and flavorings, delighting customers with Premium fresh ice creams.

Among the added flavors was a Chocolate Frosted Malt. When the name was too long to fit on Weber’s flavor board, Nathan shortened the name to Frosted Malt. The president of Higbee’s, a major department store located in downtown Cleveland, lived in Rocky River and was a big fan of the Weber’s Frosted Malt. Over a two month period he repeatedly offered to buy the Frosted Malt recipe, but Weber steadfastly refused. So the President let it be known that there just might be a job downtown for whoever could bring him that recipe. Shortly thereafter, the Legend of the Frosted Malt was born. Needless to say, there have been many imitations over the years, but one must visit Weber’s to experience the original Frosted Malt.

Nathan operated Weber’s until the 1960s, when he sold the stand on Hilliard Boulevard to Rocky River residents Mary and John Patton and partner Tom Allen. Mary continued making ice cream in the Soeder and Weber quality tradition, even as Interstate 90 construction in the area would claim the iconic shop, but not before Mary posted a “Custard’s last stand” sign along Hilliard Boulevard. Yet the Pattons persevered, reopening the shop further south on Lorain Road in Fairview Park, OH. Before long, their two daughters worked at Weber’s as well, where customers came for the ice cream and stayed for the company.

The current owner, David Ford, took over operations of Weber’s from the Pattons in 1996. Ford and his sons continue to serve the EXACT same Vanilla that was served at Euclid Beach Park, using their not-so-secret ingredient: their original Vogt Instant Freezers. Weber’s also serves sorbets, sherbets, and plenty of modern flavors along with their famous Frosted Malt and other vintage flavors.

You can enjoy Weber’s custards and vintage amusement rides at the annual Euclid Park Carousel’s Birthday Party, and the Sights & Sounds of Euclid Park Festival. But to witness and lick an original mile of ice cream, you’ll need to visit Weber’s Premium Custard & Ice Cream.