Ledyard - Alice Acres, the 20-acre farm, nursery and ice cream shop on Military Highway, is up for sale after a long financial struggle.
Owner Peter Bargmann, 52, said while his business will stay open during normal hours for the remainder of the season - every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. until Halloween - Alice Acres' future beyond autumn is uncertain if business remains sluggish.
"I built this thing from scratch," Bargmann said. "It's everything I ever wanted in life, but it's just so expensive and I'm getting so behind that it's out of my control."
Bargmann listed the property with a Dayville real estate agent three weeks ago and is asking $1.2 million for the property.
Alice Acres has been open in its current incarnation as a farmers market and grounds open to the public since Bargmann opened for business in 1995. He would later open the ice cream shop, Cows and Cones, in 2007. Bargmann's family has owned the property since 1970 when its original owner died and passed it on to Bargmann's stepfather.
Bargmann spent his childhood here, weeding strawberries in the fields and dreaming of one day running the place.
"When I was a little kid, when I said what I wanted to have when I was older, this was exactly what I wanted," he said. "But the cost of doing business and the problems that go along with having a business right now - it's just so out of control that if I don't sell it, I'm going to end up losing it."
Alice Acres encountered a similar financial struggle after a rainy summer in 2009 hampered business, but an outpouring of community support kept the farm open for another season.
This season began well, Bargmann said, with business booming particularly in the ice cream shop in late spring and early summer. But as the humidity of July set in, along with a rainy spell, the steady stream of customers slowed. Bargmann said he's behind on bills and two mortgages - one on his home across the street and one on the farm.
Some health issues have also set Bargmann back over the past few weeks, contributing to the decision to sell.
"That kind of really made me say, well, maybe it's time to do something else," he said.
On a sunny afternoon last week, it seemed to be business as usual around the farm, with happy ice cream eaters seated at tables outside Cows and Cones and the occasional customer pulling up to buy a tomato here, a pepper there.
Ledyard resident Claudia Gates and her grandchildren, Macy Guion, 7, and Avery Guion, 9, have been coming to Alice Acres for years for ice cream and sweet corn. They sat in the shade, Macy having finished her cookie dough ice cream, Avery still working on his scoop of chocolate.
"It's gonna be tough if it closes," Gates said. "Where else can you find a place like this?"
That uniqueness is one of the things Bargmann is quick both to brag about and lament in his reluctance to give Alice Acres up.
"I have a pond, I have a natural spring, I have perfect soil, I'm surrounded by a neighborhood and by commercial development," he said. "It's just a killer. I hate having to sell it."
For now, Bargmann said, all 10 of his employees will stay on and he will wait to see if any buyers bite. If he gets no offers by season's end, it's all up in the air.
"We're just going to have to wheel and deal and just struggle and try to keep everybody away from taking it, and try to make it to the springtime and do something," he said.
"I love this place more than life itself," he added. "It's never been sold before. I hate to be the one that ruins the record."