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Hayward's Homemade Ice Cream/VisitingNewEngland small business partnership - Local Small Business Stories

Carry on Hayward Son

Chris Ordway, a third generation Hayward family member, evolves Hayward's Ice Cream in Nashua, N.H., into one of the best ice cream stands in New England.

Hayward's Ice Cream stand in Nashua, N.H.
Hayward's Ice Cream Stand, Nashua. Photo credit: Hayward's Ice Cream.

Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 6/20/2018.

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Upon first sight, Hayward's Ice Cream in Nashua, N.H., looks like many other old-fashioned ice cream stands in New England with its white wooden siding and low roof exterior, pleasant awning, hanging flower baskets, lines forming outside at order windows and families enjoying their flavors of choice on tailgates or at picnic tables on expansive grounds.

That's where the similarities end, however.

Behind the scenes, owner Chris Ordway -- a third generation Hayward grandson of the family that started the ice cream stand in 1940 -- -- scoops every detail of the art and science of ice cream-making through a process far more complex than the simple concept of ice cream itself. Ordway combines 21st century industry know-how and his own intuition and creativity with traditional Hayward family recipes that result in flavors that go way beyond the norm. His novel approach to creating ice cream is as refreshing as enjoying an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. Ordway is like the Ted Williams of ice cream -- that is, going to great lengths to study and master his chosen craft. He might be one of the few ".400 hitters" in the region when it comes to turning out consistently great ice cream. Or, as  stated on the Hayward's Ice Cream web site, Chris is the Willy Wonka of ice cream. He certainly creates ice cream flavors that are "scrumdiddlyumptious."

"We just don't throw ingredients together," said Ordway, in his "office," otherwise, known as the ice cream scooping area. "We calculate everything."

Strawberry cheesecake ice cream with a strawberry and grahama crust swirl from Hayward's Ice Cream in Nashua, New Hampshire
Strawberry cheesecake ice cream with a strawberry and graham cracker crunch swirl from Hayward's Ice Cream in Nashua, N.H.

Ordway knows that ice cream stand, restaurant and parlor buzzword phrases like "high butterfat content" and "fresh homemade ice cream" do not necessarily ensure a quality product.

"Sixteen percent butterfat is very creamy with a smooth, heavy taste and that's what can make ice cream taste so good," said Ordway. "But it doesn't always guarantee it's good. You have to make it the right way with the right ingredients."

Ice cream sandwiches from Hayward's Ice Cream Stand
Ice cream sandwiches from Hayward's Ice Cream Stand.

The ice cream looks and tastes like the prototype that America craves in this traditional frozen treat. Small-sized cones appears more like a large version with tastes that conjure up images of fresh ice cream coming straight from the farm. While Hayward's does not have a farm on the premises, the quality of ice cream often surpasses that kind of quality. The presence of outstanding original and traditional homemade flavors made in small batches, homemade waffle cones, and a caring on site owner greatly help the cause to make Hayward's one of the best ice cream stands in New England. Media has also confirmed what the people already know as Hayward's  has been voted "Best Ice Cream" more than any other ice cream stand in New England, according to Ordway.

"We go for the ice cream every summer," said Steve Katsos, a Hudson, N.H., resident and the talented creator and host of The Steve Katsos Show. "Generous portions and delicious to boot! Finally, a line worth waiting in."

Hayward's Ice Cream has come a long way since its inception when FDR was president. During World War II, ice cream flavor selection was limited as sugar rations closed the store from time to time until ingredients became available again. Since then, Hayward's has become a rite of passage for ice cream lovers in southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts, withstanding the test of time against ice cream chains, grocery stores carrying virtually full isles of ice cream, and trends like frozen yogurt stores. "Many businesses have come and gone around here, and trends like frozen yogurt fizzled out," said Ordway, a long-time Nashua resident. "Let's be realistic -- ice cream has always been meant as a treat and not a health food. After a while, people caught on and were thinking 'Ice cream just tastes better that frozen yogurt.' And ice cream is regulated (by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration), meaning that it has to have a minimum butterfat content of 10.5 percent. Frozen yogurt isn't even regulated (by the FDA)."

Ordway shows a deep respect to his grandparents and parents who made Hayward's a beloved staple in the Nashua area.  You can see it in his love for the business and elements of yesteryear that remain in the store.

Nostalgic sign at Hayward's Ice Cream in Nashua, N.H.
Nostalgic sign from Hayward's Ice Cream Stand.

From 1940 to 1964, founders Charles P. and Fredericka Hayward owned and managed Hayward's Ice Cream. Daughter Trudy and then husband Mike Ordway assumed day-to-day responsibilities in 1964. Mike Ordway and his wife Linda, purchased Hayward's Ice Cream from Charles P. and Fredericka Hayward in 1977. In 1996, Chris -- son to Mike and Trudy -- purchased Hayward's Ice Cream from Mike to proudly continue the local legacy.
Chris' son, Skyler, 17, works at Hayward's when time permits and has shown interest in helping continue the tradition. Ordway's wife, Denise and daughter Paige, 13, do not work at the ice cream stand, but offer full support of Chris' work of love and creative vision. About 70 employees work at Hayward's during peak season, including many local high school students.

Ordway sources from local New England dairies as a quality foundation to his products, but also realizes that an exact, multi-stage process yields the best tasting ice cream. Hayward's starts with two Emery Thompson Batch freezers where employees blend an exact amount of cream, add ingredients and flavorings, and continue with hand-adding ingredients. While the ice cream freezes, Hayward's staff gathers the ingredients by hand. Then, when the ice cream attains and retains the correct temperature, the mix gets handcrafted together in reusable three gallon tubs. It's all done in a spotless basement, probably the size of a finished lower level in, say, a modest Cape-style home.
This is quite a remarkable feat as Hayward's makes 32,000 gallons of ice cream during its ice cream season from March to Halloween.

Here is a visual "101" from Hayward's on the ice cream making process...
How Hayward's Ice Cream in Nashua NH makes its ice cream.
How Hayward's Ice Cream in Nashua, N.H., makes its own ice cream
Where the ice cream is made at Hayward's Ice Cream in Nashua, N.H.
A closer look at a Batch Freezer.

Ordway cannot not reveal the proprietary temperature stages and the time spent properly forming in each step, but said that the three stages utilizing blasting, holding and dipping freezers respectively result in final products that possess optimal taste.
The blasting freezer pushes cold air at high velocity across the ice cream to freeze the product as quickly as possible. The holding freezer keeps the ice cream at a desired temperature to keep it from becoming perishable -- most importantly, helping to avoid changes in texture, flavor and formation of ice crystals. The dipping freezers are located in the front of the store where staff scoops the ice cream and serves to customers.

Many other ice cream makers miss the critical holding freezer step, according to Ordway.

"They'll make ice cream and throw it right into the dipping freezer," said Ordway, 48. "There has to be multiple stages of freezing at the right temperatures. If the ice cream is at the wrong temperature, you will see ice crystals or a product that doesn't taste as good as it should. With sorbet, if it is too cold, it will numb the taste buds. Too much citric acid and cold temperatures can result in a taste that feels like it is burning the tongue. It's not just about making it fresh. The process has to be exactly right."

Of course, making the ice cream fresh and using a three freezer process together makes Hayward's Ice Cream all that much better. For a small stand, Hayward's produces, during peak season, as much ice cream as some of the larger ice cream stands in New England selling about 140,000 cones a year. They not only offer ice cream in cones (including an outstanding waffle version) and cups, but also homemade sherbet, sorbet, soft serve, ice cream sandwiches, frozen yogurt, no-sugar-added ice cream and half gallons to go. Frappes, shakes and sundaes also serve as customer favorites at Hayward's.

Yumy homemade ice cream sunades from Hayward's Ice Cream Stand in Nashua, N.H.
Sundaes from Hayward's Ice Cream Stand.
Photo credit: Hayward's Ice Cream.

Ordway has created an astonishing 100 flavors with 60 regularly appearing on the menu (some are seasonal like pumpkin in the fall). He comes up with many of the ice cream recipes on his own like the Chocolate Tsunami with chocolate ice cream and brownie fudge swirl; Coconut Almond with real coconut puree; the Polar Cave with fudge ripple and caramel-filled truffle; and the Kangamangus (the famous New Hampshire scenic byway known for its spectacular foliage - misspelled here on purpose as that is the way kids and adults often pronounce it) with vanilla ice cream, caramel swirl and chocolate covered pretzels.  And of course, there are the old standbys like chocolate, vanilla (the most popular flavor with an incredible full-bodied, natural taste) and strawberry.

Ice Cream flavors at Hayward's Ice Cream in Nashua, N.H.
A sample menu of ice cream flavors from Hayward's Ice Cream Stand.
Source: Hayward's Ice Cream web site

Hayward's also offers a appealing comforts food menu with steamed hot dogs as one of the most popular items. The hot dogs take on many forms with accompaniments like cheese, chili, kraut, Reuben, slaw, mac and cheese, or bacon cheddar. The hot dogs, of course, share that American comfort foods spotlight with ice cream, so the combination of this meal and dessert makes for a wonderful summertime lunch or dinner combo.

Steamed hot dogs from Hayward's Ice Cream in Nashua, N.H.
Steamed hot dogs from Hayward's.
Hayward's Ice Cream Stand, Nashua. Photo credit: Hayward's Ice Cream.

Hayward's also serves lobster, chicken, tuna and eggs rolls, sandwiches, melts and plates. I recently tried a tuna melt and it was as good as the best of what is offered at a quality diner -- lots of tuna, nicely seasoned, plenty of cheese and perfectly grilled.

Tuna melt from Hayward's Ice Cream Stand in Nashua, N.H.
Tuna melt from Hayward's Ice Cream.

Like many other classic New England ice cream stands, Hayward's doesn't just draw people in on ice cream and food alone although it could given the extraordinary quality. On a hot summer night, as an example, there's something so magical about standing in line with a community of ice cream lovers. The big sky, ambient lights under the order windows at night, and the chance to cool off with something tasty is the stuff summer memories are made of, as well as winter reflections that wistfully focus on spring someday returning.

Ice cream stands are essentially happy places -- a timeless icon that reflects a simpler time and place and as an oasis that takes us away from a harsher world.

Hayward's Ice Cream Stand in Nashua, N.H.
Happy place: Hayward's Ice Cream Stand.
Photo credit: Hayward's Ice Cream.

It just seems, though, that Hayward's Ice Cream is a happier place than many other ice cream stands. Located away from the congested commercial strip area of the Daniel Webster Highway, Hayward's Ice Cream resides at the beginning of a modest, pleasant Nashua neighborhood not too far away from an impressive, ever-improving downtown district. Although the neighborhood has changed with some of the older residents no longer living there, many families can be found walking to the ice cream stand from their homes.  Rivier College is located across the street -- many faculty and students can be found taking the short walk to enjoy a cone. It's not only an ideal ice cream destination for locals and those living in the Manchester, N.H. to Burlington, Mass., corridor, but also vacationers
returning from famous destinations like the White Mountains of New Hampshire or Lakes Region.

Ordway takes the same kind of pride in the look and feel of his business that he does in ice cream making. The landscaping looks like something out of a magazine on the alternatingly shaded and sunny grounds. More 20 picnic tables with umbrellas are in good shape and spaciously laid out with a few covered swings and bistro tables adding nice touches.

Picnic area at Hayward's Ice Cream Stand in Nashua, N.H.
Picnic area at Hayward's Ice Cream Stand.

"Customers spend money here and I spend some of that money on landscaping and making everything look nice," said Ordway. "It is out of respect to the customers who come here. It is all part of the customer service, listening to them, and giving back. I like putting money back into the business to beautify it."

Hayward's Ice Cream in Nashua, N.H., is beautifully maintained and landscaped.
Hayward's Ice Cream Stand is well maintained.

Hayward's also features a playground for the kids but consistent with Ordway's innovative ways, this play area isn't like others. Several years ago, Ordway had a delivery truck that eventually gave out due to engine failure. Instead of scrapping the vehicle, he transformed it into an attraction for kids to explore. Slides come out of the truck for added fun.

Hayward's Ice Cream owner Chris Ordway transformed his old delivery truck into a play area.
Former delivery truck becomes part of the playground for kids at Hayward's Ice Cream.

Hayward's also offers farm fresh vegetables from Lavoie's Farm in Hollis, N.H., every day in late July until October. They also sell, annually, more than 2,000 premium Christmas trees during the Christmas holiday season, as well as decorated and undecorated wreaths and kissing balls, roping, tree stands and other accessories.

Ordway knows his small business recipe for success falls into the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" category, so Hayward's Ice Cream is not available for mass distribution at locals markets and ice cream stands. Ordway said he will "never compromise the quality of the ice cream through expansion," but did feel comfortable in rcently opening a second Hayward's Ice Cream at 360 Daniel Webster Highway in Merrimack, N.H. That location is open year-round and features an order-at-the-window setting like the Nashua location, but also a dine-in section and drive through window.

Few things say "summer' like ice cream and Hayward's Ice Cream Stand certainly does the frozen treat justice during the prime season, as well as spring and fall. While Ordway has the science down pat with proper use of machines, it is ultimately his talents that create the magnificent ice cream. After all, machines don't make great ice cream. People do.

Ice cream from Hayward's in Nashua, N.H.
Mouthwatering homemade ice cream from Hayward's. Photo credit: Hayward's Ice Cream.
"We keep improving upon the ice cream and adding flavors, and it's just a great feeling seeing our customers enjoying our ice cream," said Ordway.

Hayward's Ice Cream is located at 7 Daniel Webster Highway, Nashua, NH. Tel. 603-888-4663. Web site: Facebook fan page: Twitter page:

Hayward's Ice Cream in Nashua, NH
That wonderfully familiar sign on the Daniel Webster Highway.

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