New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

Fairfield man brings Mexican treats, love of reading to Shelton

- By Brian Gioiele brian.gioiele@hearstmedi­

SHELTON — Dave Rock opened his paleta shop on River Road this past summer — with the desire to pass on his love for the frozen Mexican treat on a stick to an even wider audience.

Rock, a Fairfield resident, opened his first shop — Dave’s Gourmet Paletas — in his hometown in 2021. With the help of paleta chef and Shelton native Christina Schumacher, the brand enjoyed success, which prompted creation of a second location, and he says, Shelton was perfect spot.

“People really like it,” said Rock, a veteran of the tech industry who became a small business owner during the pandemic.

“In an ice cream business that is filled with commercial grade ice cream with chemicals, we offer a product with no additives, no preservati­ves,” Rock added. “We just use a different technique.”

Rock moved his operation into prime space, next to Donut Crazy and across the street from the Sports Center of Connecticu­t, on River Road. The space is the former home of Rita’s Italian Ice.

“We could not have asked for a better space,” Rock said of the Shelton location.

“I grew up in Shelton. I know how busy it can get,” Schumacher added. “This was the perfect place to open. I said at the time, ‘We need to get in there before there is no more space.’ ”

Once opened, he said the next goal was letting interested passersby know what “paleta” is.

Paletas are a Mexican frozen treat made from fresh natural fruits such as strawberry and mango or made from rich creamy ingredient­s such as chocolate and Sicilian pistachio. Rock said the homemade ice cream and fresh fruit treats on a stick are popular in Mexico, Brazil, and other parts of Central America.

“Once people see and taste what we are making, they love it,” he said.

The next step was immersing himself in the community — and for him that meant teaming with Plumb Memorial Library’s Children’s Department and another of his great loves, reading.

Children’s Librarian Maura Gualtiere recently announced both Shelton libraries are offering a winter reading challenge for children through high school. Rock is helping co-sponsor the program which can attract hundreds of children.

The library program will run for six weeks, Feb. 6 through March 17. In-person registrati­on will begin on Feb. 6 at both Shelton libraries. Each child who registers will be encouraged to read books and then complete a book review for each book to enter for a chance at a prize.

“When you start a business in a community, you expect them to support you, so you need to support the community,” Rock said. “You must give back, and this is the best way. I have two kids myself, and I push them to read.

“What’s a better reward for a kid than ice cream for the act of reading a book? It’s perfect for them, and it is great for us,” he added.

Rock fell in love with the frozen treat during his frequent trips to Miami to visit his girlfriend, who is now his wife.

“All the times I would go down (to Miami), I would come back, and I tucked it into the back of my head that this would be a cool thing to do in Connecticu­t,” he added.

Rock said his frozen treats should be made daily with fresh ingredient­s. That is what led Rock to hire Schumacher, who earned a degree from Johnson & Wales.

Rock’s locations offer more than 20 different flavors and 20 toppings.

“We did research on the paleta and came up with our own recipe,” Schumacher said. “We did not want it to be just like ice cream. We wanted it to be more of a gourmet experience, with traditiona­l flavors, more Americaniz­ed flavors. There is something for everyone.”

She had long been interested in menu and recipe developmen­t, but was in a cake shop in Guilford when she connected with Rock. For her, this was a chance to focus on what she loves most — recipe creation.

“When people come in, we need to educate them,” she added. “A lot do not know what a paleta is. That originated in Mexico.”

 ?? Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticu­t Media ?? Chef Christina Schumacher lays paletas into a display freezer at the start of the day at Dave’s Gourmet Paletas in Shelton on Jan 18.
Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticu­t Media Chef Christina Schumacher lays paletas into a display freezer at the start of the day at Dave’s Gourmet Paletas in Shelton on Jan 18.

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