Iconic Lebanon ice cream parlor coming to Hamilton’s Main Street

The Village Parlor, which has been treating tastebuds in Lebanon to ice cream and more for 49 years, plans to open on Main Street in Hamilton by late October.

Fittingly, the ice cream shop, which plans to add food in a year or two like at its Lebanon location, is moving into the former Hughes Pharmacy building, which since it was built around 1905 is believed to always have housed a pharmacy and ice cream shop.

Owner Aaron Zwelling, whose Lebanon restaurant serves ice cream in glass and silver dishes, loves that about his new location, and is working to restore some of its key furnishings to be used again.

“It’s a great project, because our brand identity has so much to do with what is known as the Victorian gas light age of ice cream,” he said. “It’s the late 1800s, early 1900s, and this building, the Davis building (in Hamilton) was built in 1905. It just makes sense that we would go in there.”

“We’re actually able to save some of the character pieces from the old ice cream parlor there, refinish some of them, and utilize those in the construction of the new parlor,” Zwelling said. “So it will be a new parlor but at the same time it’ll feel very old. That’s the idea.”

He loves the Hamilton shop’s existing tin ceilings, and is saving the shop’s original mirror and counter top, restoring them. Old stools will reappear at a community table.

Hamilton city staffers approached Zwelling two years ago about opening a second location in Hamilton, he said.

“After beating me to death about it, they twisted my arm hard enough, I said, ‘Fine. I’ll be there. I’ve got to be there,’” Zwelling said, laughing. “The more I learn about Hamilton, all the great things going on, it just made a lot of sense. We should be there.”

The Village Parlor, which was featured in the movies “Harper Valley PTA” (1978) and “Milk Money” (1994), will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next July 4, so it’s probably time to add a second location, he said.

The non-profit CORE Fund, which has restored several buildings along High and Main streets, also is renovating 12 apartments upstairs that should be leased this year.

Zwelling’s establishment serves Johnson’s Real Ice Cream from a family-owned company in Bexley, Ohio, along with fresh, hand-rolled waffle cones and bowls. It’s also known for double-dip sodas, selections of unique sundaes and milkshakes and malts.

“It’s something that you just don’t find anymore, unfortunately, in the ice-cream world,” he said. “Everything is really commercialized and nuanced. I’ve always believed that if you just take a really great ice cream, some really great toppings, you can really make something that should never go away.”

In Lebanon, the formal name is The Village Parlor, because when food was added, Zwelling didn’t want tourists to think it was just an ice cream store. Lunches and dinners are a bigger part of the business now, with burgers, fresh salads and scratch-made soups.

The new Main Street location will be called The Village Parlor of Hamilton.

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