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Daniel’s Café Häagen Dazs cited for 27 years of community service

By Carol A. Clark

Dan Sena has given away more than 600,000 free scoops of ice cream over the lifetime of his business endeavors in Los Alamos. He’s also giving to a local group the $250 check that he received Tuesday as part of his recognition as the Rotary Club of Los Alamos’ 2011 Sonny Brown Small Business Award winner.

“Every time I do this – give something like this away – believe me it comes back seven fold,” Sena told the crowd gathered for the lunchtime event at Central Avenue Grill.

Sena’s employees are primarily high school students. He works with them to ensure that their grade point averages stay strong and schedules them appropriately.

“My philosophy has always been school first and work second,” Sena said. “Many of my former students have gone on to become business professionals both within the community and outside of it.”

In addition to Tuesday’s honor, Sena has received the Parks and Recreation Award for Outstanding Business and the Outstanding Franchise Award from Haagen Dazs.

“This is the smallest franchise in the country,” Sena said, and they were willing to let me have it because of the high percentage of intelligent people who live here as well as the wealth that is here.”

Sena and his wife, Margie, grew up in Santa Fe, married and moved to Los Alamos in 1984. They took over the local Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors ice cream store in Central Park Square.

After a few years, Sena moved to a space in the Mari Mac Shopping Center at Trinity Drive where he remains today. A couple of years ago, Sena changed his business from Baskin Robbins to Daniel’s Café Haagen Dazs. He sells sandwiches and other menu items along with a wide selection of Haagen Dazs premium ice cream.

Through their business, Sena and his wife have supported many community events. The couple supports Los Alamos Triathlon, Gordon’s Summer Concert Series, boys and girls high school athletics, Family Council Sock Hop, the annual Fourth of July fireworks extravaganza and the “Free Scoop Night” in conjunction with the Los Alamos Fire Department.

“Dan has 27 years in business, employees who have gone on to successful careers, a business that has evolved to keep up with the times, a donation of his time and product year after year and a strong belief in this community and its events,” said Rotarian Donnie Torres. “Dan has set the bar high and is an excellent example of how a small business can stay alive in our community.”

The Senas have three children, Nadette, Jake and Adrienne, all of whom grew up in Los Alamos and were heavily involved in school sports. The Senas also just welcomed their first grandchild.

The Sonny Brown Award was established in 2005, Rotary’s centennial year, to honor the integrity and on-going support of District 5520’s past governor, Sonny Brown. The award is given to non-Rotarian businesses that exhibit high ethical standards through employee relations, quality of product and/or service, and community involvement by management and staff.

The Rotary Club of Los Alamos gives this award every two years. This year’s committee included:  Donnie Torres, chair, and Nona Bowman and Jim Nesmith.