POLAND — Lisa Aube Cote watched a vanilla stream spilling from a stainless steel machine into an ice box.

If the stream were a little colder, the flow would slow and turn to mud. If it were warmer, it would turn gooey. But right now, it’s perfect: sweet, creamy and cold.

It’s frozen custard.

“It’s nutrition for the soul,” Cote said later, sitting on a bench outside her shop on Route 26 in Poland. “It tickles me inside. It makes me feel better.”

And it seems to please her customers.

On a good day, as many as 800 people might visit Ruby Rose Frozen Custard. Though she offers other treats — a nonfat frozen yogurt called “Only 8” and Italian ice and hard-serve ice cream — her custard is the star. It’s the reason folks drive miles, queue up on a Sunday afternoon or stock the fridge with hundreds of dollars worth of her products in the fall.

“It’s a unique dessert,” she said. “It’s made every day, and it’s local.”

It’s what she was looking for when she signed up for a local class about a dozen years ago, teaching students how to open their own businesses.

Though she already worked regularly at L.L. Bean, Cote, who lives in Auburn, wanted something else, too.

Custard seemed like a niche. Only a few people sell it in Maine.

And it tastes darned good.

“The real difference is the egg in the custard and the freshness,” she said. “It’s creamier than ice cream. Because of the egg, it’s smoother.”

Ice cream is less dense, she said. There’s air and ice crystals.

Days begin early. Either she or one of her managers start shortly after dawn, adding cold, unflavored liquid custard to her frozen custard machine. Flavorings are added in a few minutes, then the stream of fresh frozen custard emerges.

Every day, they make three kinds: vanilla, chocolate and a flavor of the day.

For the chunky flavors, the bits are folded in after the new custard emerges. Then it is stored in large drums. Most is used that day, feeding the people who pull off the busy state road for a 5- or 10-minute break.

“When the economy is tough like it’s been, people don’t go out to eat as much, but they’ll buy a cone,” she said.

Some people come every day, buying one of her flavors of the day. For others, like the folks who own cabins on the nearby lakes or attend one of the summer camps, a stop at the custard shop is a ritual.

Campers arrive by the busload and one summer resident, Andrew Card, President George W. Bush’s chief of staff, arrived with his Secret Service detail.

“He came with a bunch of security people in big, black SUVs,” Cote said. “He liked it. He left me his card.”

For Cote, 50, her aim is to create the kind of ritual she knew as a kid.

When she was a girl growing up in Lewiston, her whole family ritually visited a Lisbon Street shop, including her brother, who built and owns the building, and her sister, Tina Robichaud, who manages her books.

“We’d go to get an ice cream every night, mom and dad and us four kids,” she said. “We could only have cones because mom didn’t work and there were six of us.”

Today, she has a small scoop every day. She thinks of her family and the nightly walks.

“My ultimate is maple,” she said, watching a couple walk to the window and order a treat. “It brings me back.”

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