Discover SYR: Gannon's Isle


By Christina Sterbenz Photos by Andrew Renneisen

Location: 1525 Valley Drive + 4800 McDonald Road

Kids in muddied soccer uniforms couldn’t help but flash sprinkle-coated smiles. On a brisk spring evening, two lines formed at Gannon’s Isle ice cream shop on Valley Drive. Some customers asked to try new flavors—Rocky Mountain Raspberry, Crème Brûlée, Charlie Brown. Other, more seasoned members of the Gannon’s family knew exactly what they wanted. “I’ve seen some of these kids come in and have their first ice cream, and now they’re married and bringing their own kids in,” says Eileen Gannon, who co-owns the two sweet-tooth sanctuaries with her younger brother John. And if customers aren’t already true family, Gannon will happily lend a hand; she once hid an engagement ring inside an ice-cream cake for a couple who had their first date at the shop.

Gannon's patrons can also fall in love with their own creations. Last fall, the Syracuse University men’s cross-country team concocted a pumpkin and apple crisp milkshake as a staple for the season. Marti, a regular who wanted a crunchy combination of nuts and sweetness, now has Marti’s Marshmallow. “They’re your people, they’re your customers,” Gannon says. “That’s the nicest thing about running your own business—you can keep them happy.”

Successful entrepreneurship comes with another sweet perk: freedom to focus on quality. Gannon’s ice cream is 14 percent butterfat, making the treats creamier and richer than any generic tub (which commonly has about 10 or 12 percent) in a grocery store freezer. Gannon’s also buys locally whenever possible. In the summer, a farmer down the street drops off about 12 flats of fresh strawberries for the delicious Strawberries-N-Cream.

Because of the careful flavor-making, sometimes descriptions like “sweet” and “good” don’t do the cones justice. Even though Mairead, a 9-year-old with messy hair and an even messier face, chose the most classic flavor—vanilla with sprinkles— she describes the taste as either a birthday cake or rainbow. And Cecilia, a thoughtful 10-year-old, says her vanilla-lime soft- serve reminds her of family amusement park trips. With such inspiring flavors, it’s no surprise Gannon’s business has seen growth. Last year, the shop even started a catering business after many requests— some for wedding cakes.