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John and Michelle Bucci recently sold The Inside Scoop ice cream shop to Julee Leonardo, second from left.  Also pictured are Madison Bucci, 17, left, and Mia Bucci, 14.

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — A staple of Rhode Island summers has changed hands.

After over 20 years of serving ice cream to their community, Inside Scoop owner John Bucci and his wife Michelle are retiring from the role.

The heads of operation since 2001 have passed the shop over to family friend Julee Leonardo.

“She has a lot of energy. She’s very likable and she is determined,” said Bucci, who has been friends with Leonardo’s father for over 40 years. “It’s like I’m passing it off to a family member.”

Leonardo also owns Jules’ Ice Cream in Bristol. She purchased The Inside Scoop in early January.

The Bucci family was selective in who would be gaining the shop. Bucci said they received interest from 2-3 individuals but decided against listing the business with a broker.

“I wanted to make sure whoever takes over the reins would run it just like I did,” Bucci said.

Leonardo said she feels lucky to inherit the business and some of the staff members and is excited for the opportunity to keep one of South County’s most well known businesses going for a new generation of customers.

“It’s such a successful and well-known business already,” she said. “I’m really excited to just continue on with the tradition that they created.”

Leonardo added the Bucci’s have been her mentor for five years.

John and Michelle were the principal ice cream makers at The Inside Scoop. At the height of the summers, ice cream creation could last six to seven hours a day, seven days a week.

“Emotionally, it was very difficult to sell the business,” John said. “Because it was part of my identity. A big part of my identity. And, I have two young children who work there — 14 and 17 — it’s part of their identity too. They were a little in shock.”

Bucci said he has loved serving the community, but feels he needs to slow down.

“I’m happy and sad in a way,” he said. “But I’m 66 years old, I’m not getting any younger … it’s stressful, the store is very busy and there’s always something going on.”

Bucci said there won’t be any noticeable change for customers.

“It’s going to be a seamless transition” he said.

Leonardo echoed the sentiment.

“We don’t want anyone to be scared that it’s going to be a new operation, because it’s not,” Leonardo said. “I’m carrying on what the Bucci family has created and I’m proud to do that. We wouldn’t have summer in North Kingstown, without it.”

The Inside Scoop has over 60 ice cream flavors and offers six rotating flavors of vegan treats — including black raspberry, chocolate coconut almond, and mint chip.

Bucci said he expects the current staff of 16 people to remain intact, adding that 9-10 new staff members will jump on board by the summer — rounding out to about 25 workers.

Leonardo will be hiring. Those interested in a seasonal job can visit the website at theinsidescoopri.com.

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