The beloved Region institution Gayety's Chocolate & Ice Cream satisfied sweet tooths for generations before closing last fall.
It appeared to be the end of the nearly century-old ice cream parlor and gourmet chocolate shop, which had survived bankruptcy in 2015, the temporary closure of its Schererville location in 2013 and even the Great Depression.
But a new owner, who has a 30-year history with Gayety's, has taken over and plans to reopen the ice cream and chocolate shop at 3306 Ridge Road in downtown Lansing. The Schererville Gayety's in the Town Square Shopping Center on Indianapolis Boulevard and Main Street will remain closed
Briar Executive Realty real estate brokerage owner Laurene Lemanski bought Gayety's through her new company, For the Love of Chocolates and Ice Cream.
"Who is up for a classic Gayety's special, and some traditional hand-dipped chocolates that have been loved for nearly a century?" she posted on Gayety's long-dormant Facebook page. "Good news! The Lansing location will be reopening soon, as the same Gayety's we all know, but under new management."
Lemanski's parents grew up in South Chicago and frequented the Gayety's on S. Commercial Ave and E. 92 Street on the South Side. She started working at Gayety's Torrence Avenue location while she was in high school during the late 1980s.
"Even though I sell homes for a living, I always felt that Gayety's was my home," she said. "I have had a 30-year history with the business. I have heard so many heartfelt stories from my family and friends throughout my entire life about Gayety's."
Lemanski said she fell in love with the history of Gayety's, which dates back to 1920, when it was started in Chicago by the newly arrived Greek immigrant James Papageorge.
"Stories resonated about every era of time," she said. "The hustle and bustle of the growth of the business, and the wonderful loyalty of the customers and employees have enriched my life. I always kept a strong eye on how the business developed through these decades and boy have there been a lot of changes."
In the 1980s for instance, there were no high tech registers, computers, phone systems, or software accounting programs, Lemanski said.
"The key elements of this business are what my focus is on," she said. "My goal is to preserve the integrity of the traditional Gayety's history, using fine ingredients, old world style of hand-dipped chocolates, and a strong focus on customer service and quality control to make all experiences memorable. The walls will still be lined with all the old photos that keep the history alive."
She said she was "overwhelmingly compelled" to buy the company, which went out of business in October.
"If you are familiar with Gayety's, there is a strong possibility you may have encountered me. Either I waited on you, you worked with me, I processed your candy orders or spoke to you on the phone," she said. "This is a story of pure passion and the love for a strong community. I am more than honored to be able to carry this torch through its Centennial year in business."
USA Today named Gayety's one of the top 50 ice cream parlors in the country and the best in Illinois. Its hand-dipped chocolate was sold at fancy hotels in downtown Chicago like the Four Seasons and the Ritz Carlton, as well as online internationally to customers in places like Costa Rica and Mexico.
It had been one of the biggest draws to downtown Lansing and was a popular destination throughout Northwest Indiana and the south suburbs for Valentine's Day gifts.