Purity Ice Cream, the Ithaca scoop shop beloved by students and residents alike, will soon be under new ownership.
After 23 years, owners Bruce Lane and Heather Lane are retiring and have offered the business for sale, the co-owners announced earlier in June. According to Bruce Lane, he and his wife Heather decided to advertise the sale to attract as many potential buyers as possible, as he said taking over an 85-year-old food business requires a steady hand.
“[Running a business] is not for the delicate,” Bruce said. “It’s for somebody who really wants to take an entrepreneurial opportunity to take over a really solid business.”
Purity Ice Cream was founded in 1936 by Cornell alumnus Leo Guentert and opened at its current location on Cascadilla Street in 1953. Known as the “ice cream of the Finger Lakes,” Purity offers small-batch ice cream, made with Geuntert’s original recipe. The menu includes more than 35 different flavors, along with bakery items and drinks — and before the pandemic, the eatery also offered breakfast and lunch.
The Lanes took over Purity in 1998 from Guentert’s granddaughter Margo Klose, hoping to revitalize the business while maintaining the familiar atmosphere that customers loved. They renovated the building and updated the appliances but kept the same ice cream recipe that Purity had churned up for decades.
“What we tried to do was keep the part that people loved and clean up the stuff that people would be happier with like a nice new floor, clean tables and stuff like that,” Bruce said.
As they search for a suitable buyer, the Lanes plan to continue running the business, with no current plans to let Purity shut down. Once the eatery is in new hands, Bruce said he believes that Purity’s new owners have several avenues to expand the business, from a larger food menu to opening new locations — thanks to Purity’s steady and far-reaching fan base of Cornell and Ithaca College alumni.
Bruce said he has even been contacted by Cornell graduates who wanted tubs of Purity Ice Cream for their wedding.
“My answer is always no, we don’t have a way to do that,” Bruce said. “But somebody else doing this will say, ‘Oh my gosh. That’s a marker for an untapped market.’”
Purity endured the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which left many Ithaca eateries struggling to stay afloat. To accommodate social distancing and COVID safety measures, Purity limited its menu to ice cream and baked goods while offering takeout, curbside service and outdoor seating. Bruce credits the business’s success to Purity’s loyal customer base.
“They responded very well when we’re selling for pickup only … When we started scooping outside in the middle of the winter, they supported us on that too,” Bruce said. “We really benefited from having a strong community support.”
The Lanes plan to use their retirement to spend more time with their three grandchildren. Bruce said Purity’s strong financial position helped them feel confident about passing on the business.
“It’s time for us to go do other fun things,” Bruce said, “and for someone else to take on the mantle of growing and taking Purity in new directions and doing exciting new things that Heather and I couldn’t even think of.”