Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Merry Maid of the Merry Dairy

We all have wild and crazy dreams. Not all of us have the courage to make them happen.
Especially when that dream is way out of your comfort zone, you need a healthy dose of faith, hope, and -- some would say-- insanity, to take the plunge.

My friend, Marlene Haley, is taking a taking a deep breath and plunging head first into a new food venture.  She's scooping out vanilla frozen custard, and living out her dream.

Courtesy Katy Watts
Her dream began about 10 years ago when she and her husband had their first taste of frozen custard in the United States. "It was so creamy and delicious. The egg yolks make the difference compared to regular ice cream. We'd make special road trips just to find frozen custard," she recalls.

"When we moved back to Ottawa, we couldn't find frozen custard. I thought, we have to bring frozen custard to Ottawa. People in our neighbourhood of Wellington West - Westboro will love it."

The idea percolated for years as Marlene continued her day job as a professor. Last fall, she decided to trade in her lesson plans for cream, eggs and a professional ice cream maker.

"That was the toughest decision, to change your lifestyle, decide to work long crazy hours and just go for it," says Marlene.

She did her market research and drew up a business plan. She attended a custard-making course in the States. She bought her ice cream truck just a few weeks ago and dressed it up in the new Merry Dairy colours. After months and months of preparation, she's ready to roll.
Marlene Haley dishes out vanilla frozen custard from the Merry Dairy truck.    
Her frozen custard is made with local dairy and eggs, plus sugar and vanilla. That's it - no artificial ingredients or preservatives. Each batch is made fresh that morning in her specially-equipped kitchen.


The Merry Dairy is a family affair. Marlene's nine-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son are often on duty manning the sprinkles station or the loudspeaker. (On my visit, the truck was belting out Led Zeplin's "Stairway to Heaven,"  the rarely-heard chimes version.) Other family members have volunteered to pitch with scooping and babysitting duties.

For now, the merry maid churns out vanilla frozen custard with various toppings. She's experimenting with other flavours.

I take my hat off to Marlene for daring to try something completely different, and for expanding  Ottawa's food scene.

Dream it. Do it. Lucky for Westboro residents, we get to savour Marlene's adventure.

If you're lucky, she'll be rolling by a neighbourhood near you. You can follow the Merry Dairy truck on Twitter @themerrydairy.


  1. Thanks for writing about this and letting us know this treat exists in Ottawa! We will be sure to visit this summer.

    1. She's rolling into Fisher Park tonight 6-8pm.

  2. The kids on the Hipstrip LOVED Merry Dairy! Even the grown-ups came running when they heard the chimes :)