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In a neighborhood that knows struggle, resolve to reopen a ransacked ice cream shop

Daisy’s Ice Cream shop is iconic in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood. The shop is closed for the winter, but it will take more than the warmth of spring for Daisy’s to open back up this year.

"The place is pretty trashed," said Anthony Trzaska, Daisy's current proprietor.

Daisy’s has had a tough few months.

Last fall, the man Trzaska partnered with to run Daisy’s – well-respected chef Walter Hyde – died suddenly.

Walter Hyde attracted big, hungry crowds to Daisy's with his creative menu. [Anthony Trzaska]

And earlier this year, the place got ransacked. Thieves made off with an ice cream machine, several cooking appliances and even the copper plumbing.

“What we had is what we were using to try to keep Daisy’s going," Trzaska said. "‘What’s missing? What’s the damage?’ Ok, but ‘What’s the damage’ is, ‘How the hell do we do this?’”

Thieves took several appliance and left behind a big mess. The Daisy's kitchen has since been cleaned up. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

Traszka’s childhood memories include summer nights at Daisy’s, which was a short walk from his house. In 2018, he took over operations of the shop from the original owners to make sure it would continue serving up sundaes, cones and sweet memories.

Daisy's first opened in 1977. [Daisy Pudeslki]

“I remember, butterscotch dipped cone was my go-to as a kid and that same dipper is still back there," Trzaska said. “It’s always just that neighborhood go-to shop. And those don’t really exist to that extent anymore.”

Daisy and Ray Pudelski opened Daisy’s in 1977. Daisy has a lot of fond memories in their nearly forty years of running the place.

Daisy and Ray Pudelski are the original owners of Daisy's. [Daisy Pudelski]

"I had people, like high school kids coming in buying ice cream on their way home from school. Then all of a sudden these kids got married. And then they came in with their kids," Daisy Pudelski said. "And now before we left, some of those kids had grown up and they were teenagers and they said, ‘Yeah, my mom used to bring me here when I was a little baby.'"

Daisy’s wasn’t just a destination for ice cream after summer baseball games – it was an institution in a neighborhood that would eventually struggle with poverty and high crime.

Daisy's was a popular destination for post-baseball game treats. [Daisy Pudelski]

Donna Smith and her family have lived two doors down from Daisy’s for more than three decades. She volunteers to take care of the flower beds in front of the shop.

“People, they couldn’t wait until it starts warming up after winter for that first opening," Smith said. “I think it's really the cornerstone that brings people from the outside to visit.”

Daisy Pudelski still remembers Donna Smith's regular order — a well-done burger that Pudeslki would jokingly call a 'hockey puck.' [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

Break-ins have become common in Slavic Village, but Daisy’s? Residents were shocked about that. Daisy’s feel sacred. 

Packed picnic tables were a familiar site at Daisy's. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

“It would be nice if Daisy’s was a little more untouchable because of its place in the neighborhood," Trzaska said. "It’s been here forever. It’s Daisy’s. Maybe that is a sign that it's not as untouchable as we'd like to think that it should be."

When Trzaska posted about the break-in on social media, Slavic Villagers were quick to show support.

Slavic Village is in Southeast Cleveland. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

“Before thoughts even settled, I have support arriving. Mark Bush, Bush Furnace and Boiler at 52nd, he dropped everything he was doing to be here," Trzaska said. "And then that Facebook post just goes nuts and I knew it was going to.”

Melisssa Khoury runs Saucission, a high-end butcher shop she opened with a business partner in 2017, a few blocks down Fleet Avenue. She called Daisy’s “a bright light on the street.”

Melissa Khoury helping a customer at Saucisson on Fleet Avenue. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

“It felt kind of like a neighborhood punch in the gut," Khoury said. "There's some of us that are really fighting hard to champion this neighborhood and show that there are good people here and there are good businesses and people trying to make a difference in a positive way.”

Walter Hyde put his own special twist on the Daisy's menu. [Anthony Trzaska]

For Trzaska, a lawyer and developer who has made big investments in his old neighborhood, what’s worse than the loss of an ice cream machine and other appliances was the loss of Hyde, the man who dished up soft-serve with a sweet smile. Trzaszka referred to their era at the shop as Daisy’s 2.0.

“It feels a little more lonely here because it was Walt and me," Trzaska said. "He’s not someone that’s replaced. So it’s like Daisy’s 3.0 is what needs to be figured out.”

Trzaska and Hyde changing the Daisy's marquee. [Anthony Trzaska]

Getting to 3.0 begins with cleaning up the mess the thieves left behind at Daisy’s. But eventually, the goal of 3.0 is restore Daisy's to what it has always been — a simple neighborhood ice cream shop, managed by someone who cares as much as Hyde did, with lines of people extending from the ordering windows to the sidewalk along Fleet Avenue.

Walter Hyde chatting with neighborhood kids on a busy day at Daisy's in 2018. [Anthony Trzaska]

“The neighborhood is still here. So are the windows. It takes a lot behind the windows, but that’s what I’m working toward," Trzaska said. “Slavic Village needs consistent positive energy. Consistent positive energy is the way to reactivate this space. It’s the way to respond to hate. It’s the way to develop other properties. It’s the way to bring a neighborhood together. The neighborhood absolutely still deserves it.”

Trzaska plans to attract crowd's as Daisy's, like the shop had in its heydey. [Daisy Pudeslki]

As far as the namesake is concerned, 3.0 sounds like the perfect plan.

“I would love to see 3.0. I would love to see another ice cream store go in here," Daisy Pudelski said. "I think the people need it.”

Gabriel Kramer is a Filipino American journalist from Medina, Ohio. He studied journalism at Kent State University and is a proud member of the Asian American Journalists Association.