Sister Lakes ice cream parlor unveils new coffee bar, renovations

SISTER LAKES — A historic local business learned some new tricks that it was eager to show off on Thursday.

Driftwood Summer Shop, 94370 County Road 690, celebrated its expansion and renovation with a ribbon-cutting ceremony presented by Cornerstone Alliance and the Women’s Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance.

More than two dozen friends, family, business associates and staff were on hand for the event, which allowed guests in attendance to see the upgraded store one day before it opens for the summer season. The new-look shop features a new, full craft coffee bar, a redesigned shopping area and a new arcade space sure to take locals on a trip down memory lane.

“I’m a coffee person,” said Jerry Morin, of Sister Lakes Brewing Company. “I like coffee more than I like beer. In order to have some good coffee, you have to drive to St. Joe, South Bend or some other place to get it and now it’s right down the street. I foresee lines of people here on Saturday and Sunday mornings for coffee. Thank you for investing in this and I think the community will respond.”

Driftwood will be open Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Monday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The store will have flexible hours in June due to school still being in session but will be open every day at 8 a.m. for coffee starting the last week of June.

The venture is the latest for the 74-year-old ice cream and memorabilia store, which was passed from Lorie and Steve VanAntwerp to Allison and Daniel LaFond — the niece and nephew-in-law of the VanAntwerps — in 2019 after 35 years of ownership.

“It’s nice to make it official,” said Daniel LaFond. “We have been planning for this for months now. From coming up with the idea last summer to the conception and getting the construction company bids, it’s just been a very long process, and we’re very fortunate that we’ve arrived at this place where we can finally open the doors and say come check it out.”

Barstools surround the high-top coffee bar, which is located in the back of the store. The wood paneling is from some of the original display cases built by former owner Carl Timmons that were saved for the project. The booths have been moved to the adjacent wall.

In addition, the inside of the business has been repainted, the floors redone and the garage expanded.

Even with all of the upgrades, the LaFonds made sure the store did not lose its nostalgic charm.

“It was so important to us that we retained the classic Driftwood ice cream, clothing and then this new section,” said Daniel LaFond. “This is a place where people can sit out, look at the lake and have ice cream and coffee. We knew that it was a delicate balance we had to strike between not changing too much while still adding a lot of value.”

Driftwood has partnered with Brian Maynard at Forte Coffee in St. Joseph, which will be providing the business with locally roasted coffee blends. Lattes, espresso, iced drinks, assorted teas and hot chocolate are just a few of the items that will be offered.

“He’s been tremendous,” Daniel LaFond said. “He showed Allison and I the coffee business from top to bottom. … Whenever I talk to Brian, I feel so much better. He is a tremendous individual and mentor and we look forward to a partnership with Brian for many years to come.”

The LaFonds also worked with economic development agency Cornerstone Alliance to secure funding for the additions and renovations.

“Cornerstone Alliance has been tremendous in their guidance, advice and their patience,” said LaFond. “Especially in the early stages, we didn’t know what we didn’t know as I’m sure many business owners who are looking at this kind of situation are. It really wasn’t real to us until President and Chief Executive Officer of Cornerstone Alliance Rob Cleveland started to explain in very real terms how we could secure funding with the kind of business that we are and so of course we’re just so thankful for that.”

“It’s an outstanding opportunity,” Cleveland said. “Dan and Ali have done a fantastic job in taking a legacy business and making it their own. “It’s such an important asset to the community and when they came to us and needed some assistance, that’s what we’re here for. Cornerstone Alliance offers services not only in Berrien County, but also in Cass. This is a prime example of how a small business can come in and look for a little assistance. We connected them with some folks, and you can see the fruits of what’s happened today, and it’s just amazing and throughout the death not only for them but for the community.”

LaFond was happy to spend the milestone moment surrounded by the Sister Lakes community members that helped make the renovations possible.

“It takes a village to do anything great,” he said. “This is a true community, there’s no one or two-person operations. There’s no one business who does it by themselves. You have all these people who come together and rally around you. And remember what I spoke about is just the people who have been willing to help, and we’re so fortunate that we have so much love around us.”

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