Grannie Annie’s Adds Vegan Frozen Desserts to the Mix

Non-Dairy Option Opens the Door for More to Enjoy
By Maria Scandale | Jul 24, 2019
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Surf City, NJ — At the shore, ice cream means summer. Now more people can savor the flavors, since Grannie Annie’s Ice Cream Café in Surf City makes its own vegan dairy-free varieties.

In the colorful, tropical tranquility of the shop at 615 Long Beach Blvd., vegan frozen desserts are the newest choice among the rainbow of soft-serve and hand-dipped ice cream, shakes, store-baked brownies and cookies, Belgian waffles, fruit smoothies coffee, Italian water ice and more.

Ann Lerman, the family business’ namesake,  introduced herself as “everybody calls me Annie, I’ve been Annie for 50-some years since I got married.” Yes, she is a grandma, and that grandson is now 17 years old and 6 feet, 5 inches tall, and works there. So does a son, Reed, who enjoys the cool change from his full-time chiropractic office.

It is Annie who decided the shop needed a dairy-free alternative for customers – and she makes the confection herself with equipment right there in the store. Vegan in this definition simply means dairy-free.

“I’ll tell you what I enjoy about this: It’s making people happy,” she said.

“I just never realized how many people are unable to eat dairy because it doesn’t sit right with them. That could be because of stomach pains, or they’re allergic to it, all different reasons why.”

A few years back, she gave up eating dairy products herself for health reasons, and so did her husband, who loved ice cream. The idea came to create a dairy-free product for the store.

“I said, ‘I can do this.’ My background is that I wrote two cookbooks that were published in the ’70s, so I’m very comfortable in the kitchen. So I started making some. Last year I decided that because people were asking for it, I would bring a small amount into the store to see how it was received. I couldn’t keep up with the demand.”

So now she has made a bigger project of it, in a two-day process that allows the mixture to chill before next day’s blending in an ice cream maker.

Another store-made offering is frozen yogurt made with soy milk and probiotic culture. Yet another specialty is NSA (no-sugar added) sweetened with dates and date syrup instead of agave nectar.

Vegan frozen dessert flavors include: banana; blueberry cheesecake; cherry chocolate; chocolate peanut butter; vanilla peanut butter; green tea; mango; navel orange; Oreo; piña colada; pistachio; strawberry cheesecake; vanilla with coconut and cashew; and others.

The ones that are not in the section marked yogurt-based are made of either organic coconut milk or organic coconut milk with soy milk. The three cheesecake varieties are made with vegan cream cheese – “very popular, very creamy and rich.”

“Sometimes I make a new flavor and I’m amazed at how quickly it flies out of here. Especially to people who come in here a lot and they’ll say, ‘Oh, you made something new.’

“It’s all handmade, it’s made right here in the store. There are no additives in it; what’s on the label is basically what’s in it,” Lerman said.

“Ingredients are always organic when possible. There are absolutely no preservatives in any of our non-dairy frozen desserts,” added a sign.

Over the past 10 years, customers were already saying, “Its so nice in here; it’s so comfortable in here, so inviting in here.” That’s what Lerman always hears.

The store formerly sold plants and water garden plant varieties, and some are inhabitants still. They seem to thrive on the steel drum Calypso music softly sifting through the speakers. A cozy mirrored alcove is brightened by a greenhouse window, and model boats have docked themselves on shelves. Outdoors next to the deck, a small waterfall gurgles through the landscape.

Days are quiet for the singles and friends who stop in. Nights, after about 7 o’clock, are another world. Hours are 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. Annie does the early shift.

Lerman grew up in Atlantic City, so seashore tradition has been her life. It still is, and she has added her own healthy twists.

The phone number for more information is 609-618-2585.

— Maria Scandale

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