Joe Bugliaro has done a lot of things in life. He’s owned a flower shop. He’s worked as a garbage collector, working his way up to a superintendent position. But nothing beats selling ice cream.
“You get a lot more a lot more joy out of owning an ice cream store,” said the co-owner of the Italian ices and ice cream company Uncle Louis G.
"I enjoy seeing the kids with big smiles," he added. "Nobody’s miserable there.”
Bugliaro, 50, got into the ice cream business through chance: his friend owned the company and he decided to open a store through a licence holder agreement in Staten Island in 2001. In 2008 the company's owner was selling the business and he and three friends took a leap and bought it.
Bugliaro grew up in Bay Ridge and went to Fort Hamilton High School and Kingsborough Community College. He now lives in Staten Island with his wife and two sons aged 7 and 9.
The first Uncle Louie G opened in 1999 with a factory on Coney Island Avenue near Caton Road. When Bugliaro and his partners took over in 2008, there were 18 shops. Now there are 58 with locations in Florida, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. In New York City there are 25 shops, including 13 in Brooklyn.
“We just kept going and going and going,” Bugliaro said.
Besides expanding the business, Bugliaro’s team also added some new flavors including the extremely popular “rainbow cookie” ices.
“We just threw it together,” he said. “We were eating the rainbow cookies one day and threw them in.”
One of Bugliaro’s latest acquisitions is the Uncle Louis G on Park Place at Carlton Avenue. It had been an Uncle Louie G for several years, but over the summer the location’s owner had gone out on his own, reinventing it as “Kathy’s,” along with a few other Brooklyn locations he owned. But he closed the business in early August and shortly after Bugliaro converted the storefront back to Uncle Louie G.
While most customers Patch asked about the switchover said they hadn’t noticed the name change, a few people said they were glad to see their favorite uncle back on the block.
Tyquan Manning, 10, said he thought Kathy's was good, but that Uncle Louie G's ice cream cakes were superior.
"I noticed that there weren't as many flavors," said Sabrina Wells, a hospital administrator who lives a few blocks away. Was she glad when the Uncle Louis G flavors returned?
"Yes, definitely," she said, "especially the apple pie a la mode."
Editor's Note, Sept. 11, 2012: Bugliaro's age has been corrected.