The evolution of Uncle Ray’s

April Carr, Online Editor

Uncle Ray’s Dairyland has been a Fenton hometown favorite since March 15, 1978; when their first store was opened on 1032 North Leroy Street by Ray Durant, a high school industrial arts teacher who had a passion for something more. 

“Ray was an industrial arts teacher at Lake Fenton High School, looking for a fun summer job,” Ray’s son, Dave Durant said. “In 1977, my father and mom purchased the Queen-Bee which only had a total of nine parking spots, and we soon turned it into Uncle Ray’s.”

Dave and his brother, Todd Durant, soon quit their jobs and dove headfirst into the ice cream industry, which Todd and Dave both loved. The thought of working with his mother, father and brother made Dave nothing less than ecstatic. They all had a very close bond and that led them to success in working together.

When Uncle Ray’s made its debut, from the very beginning, high energy and a great attitude was the foundation of the ice cream store now known as a Fenton staple.

“We did whatever we could to be great,” Dave said. “It was never about being good.”

High energy and an atmosphere that would put a smile on their customers’ faces were important to the team at Uncle Ray’s.

“Ray had hired all of the Fenton Cheerleaders,” Dave said, “because Ray knew they would be the utmost energetic and friendly— and they were all of that.”

When Uncle Ray’s first opened up, they served three homemade items: soft serve vanilla, chocolate and twist ice cream. This changed, however, when Ray took a visit to Florida.

“An ice cream shop in Florida was advertising 1,000+ flavors of ice cream,” Dave said, “and my dad thought, ‘How could that be?’ He then discovered the famous frozen yogurt machine and he knew it would make an exceptional addition to the Dairyland.” 

The shop then went on to sell frozen yogurt, soft serve, sundaes, shakes and most famously, Uncle Ray’s homemade hard scooped ice cream. Though the evolution of high-quality customer service never changed, the location of the store and the ice cream they were serving evolved greatly. 

“After 10 years of being very popular at the old shop, Ray made the decision to go full force into pursuing ice cream, and decided a bigger setting was needed,” Dave said. “We built a Halo Burger and miniature golf along with our exceptional ice cream, making Uncle Ray’s the second-best place next to Disney World.”

The new location of the store is now located at 1462 N Leroy Street, and though it was a small move from the first location, the size changed substantially. 

From the very beginning, Ray Durant developed a saying— “The Uncle Ray Way,” which is all about how each worker leaves customers feeling after taking a trip to the Dairyland. 

After Ray’s passing in 2008, Todd and Dave went on to carry the beloved family business and 40+ years later, Uncle Ray’s is still a hometown staple and a 5.0 star-rated store with over 1,600 reviews on Google reviews, Facebook and Yelp combined. 

For more information about the family story or the ever-growing menu, visit or