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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 22, 2009

Emack & Bolio’s features music to fight cancer
The mark of an ice-cream lover leads to a shared life

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — Ken Young, a Voorheesville high school teacher, said his wife, Amy Riddell, had a lifelong dream of owning an ice cream shop. After spending 18 years as a guidance counselor in Voorheesville, Riddell’s dream came true — she and her husband now own two ice cream shops, called Emack & Bolio’s.

This weekend, the couple will be holding a fund-raiser at both locations to benefit the American Cancer Society, in part because Young’s mother was recently diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a bone cancer.

According to Young, Riddell was working at a Ben and Jerry’s when he met her, and frequently came home with her arms covered in chocolate.

“One day, she came home and had a chocolate spot on her arm that was identical to a birth mark I had on my arm — same arm, same place — and we knew we were meant for each other,” said Young.

Throughout her years as a guidance counselor, Riddell carried a notebook around the country with her, in which she recorded her opinions on different ice cream parlors she visited.

“Six years ago in Cape Cod, we went into an Emack & Bolio’s, which is a Boston-based chain. Amy tried the ice cream and declared ‘This is it!’” Young said.

The chain’s first store, in 1975, was in a Brookline basement and served as a hangout for musicians who couldn’t perform after midnight because of Boston’s blue laws, according to company lore. The lawyers who founded the store named it after two homeless men for whom they had done pro bono work.

Amy Riddell told Young that, if she ever opened a store, she wanted to carry that ice cream.

“I told her ‘Yeah, right,’” laughed Young.

Two years ago, Riddell quit her job as a counselor at Voorheesville; Young said the decision scared him.

But, to make Riddell’s dream come true, the couple bought and renovated a building on Delaware Avenue, and opened their first ice cream parlor in June 2008.

Young said, for his part, since he is “into the music scene,” he arranged to have live music at the store. Every Friday and Saturday evening, from 7 to 10 p.m., musicians play at both shops. Live music will be one of the big features of the fundraiser on Oct. 24.

“A lot of musicians play at bars, and they can’t bring their kids or families in to see them perform,” said Young. “They like playing in our stores because the kids can come and watch, and run around and eat ice cream.”

About six months after the store in downtown Albany opened, Young said, Crossgates Mall approached he and his wife and suggested that they open a second store. Young said that he didn’t think they were “mall people,” but Riddell had looked into the old Singer’s Jewelers building and fallen in love with its architecture. So, the couple bought the place, partnered with another teacher from Voorheesville, and opened a second location on Western Avenue.

“We didn’t pursue a second shop, but the ball starts rolling, and you can’t stop it,” said Young.

According to Young, business in both locations is steady, although the downtown location experienced a bit of a lag with recent construction on Delaware Avenue. The shop in Guilderland is slowly building its clientele as University at Albany students realize it is there, said Young.

The music nights are always busy, and the acts are often booked three months in advance, Young said. In addition to local artists, he said, they have had acts from New York City, Boston, and even one from Australia.

Musicians are lined up to play all day at both locations on Saturday. One of Emack & Bolio’s frequent local performers, Rob Jonas — a former Enterprise sportswriter who now writes for the The Spotlight — approached Young with the suggestion of doing a fund-raiser to benefit the American Cancer Society; Jonas’s mother had died of cancer.

“My mother had just been diagnosed, so it seemed like the right time,” said Young. He sent out an e-mail to his list of regular musicians, and said he got so many instant responses that both shop locations will be cycling through performances every 30 minutes to an hour.

“It was crazy. Every one of them had a story about someone they knew who was affected by cancer,” Young said.

From noon to 10 p.m., there will be live musical performances at the shops on Delaware and Western avenues, and the sales of CDs, tips, and a portion of the ice cream sales will go to the American Cancer Society.

“Our hope is to raise at least $1,000,” said Young, who added that the Voorheesville school system will be collecting donations to hold a “dress down day” on Oct. 23, and that money will also go to the American Cancer Society.

Young said that, during the fund-raiser, the shops will be serving their regular fare — 30 different flavors of ice cream, espresso drinks, smoothies, and hand-dipped chocolates.

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