July is the perfect month to eat ice cream, especially this year! Not only do we celebrate National Ice Cream Month in July, but in 2021, National Ice Cream Day falls on July 18th.
With many cities lifting lockdown restrictions and businesses fully reopening, now is a great time to support one (or all!) of your local ice cream shops. Here are three Meet the Merchant stories to inspire your taste buds.
Tin Pot Creamery
Becky Sunseri of Tin Pot Creamery was one of the first merchants we talked to last year for our Meet the Merchant series. She shared with us how she built a multi-location ice cream powerhouse in the Bay Area from an Ice Cream of the Month Club that she ran from her living room. The following Sunseri gathered in those early days allowed her to open her first storefront in Palo Alto. Now, Tin Pot Creamery is a thriving staple in five locations across the Bay Area.
After graduating from pastry school in San Francisco, Sunseri landed her first kitchen job at Facebook. She credits the experience of working in that environment, and learning to produce delicious desserts at scale, with helping prepare her to open Tin Pot Creamery.
“The name [Tin Pot] comes from a really old ice cream recipe,” she noted about the namesake of her business. “[The recipe] says to freeze the ice cream in six tin pots…and I like the idea of the tin pot representing something homemade. So we’re going back to the basics of homemade ice cream, with a little spin on it.”
Ice cream techniques and traditions vary widely across world cultures. Hussein Saad, Zeinab Cherkaoui, and Yousef Khalaf—the owners of La Gelati in Dearborn Heights, Michigan—share their take on ashta, a very old ice cream tradition that began in present-day Syria. The process is done entirely by hand. Rather than relying on machines, ashta is stretched, which creates its signature smooth, creamy texture.
According to Saad, the large Arab population between Dearborn and Dearborn Heights has a strong sense of nostalgia when it comes to ashta. “Everyone loves it, and for many of our customers, it brings up memories of times in other countries and cultures. It’s pretty rare to find ashta in the U.S., so people come from far and wide to visit us.”
The folks at La Gelati also enjoy introducing newcomers to delicious handmade ashta. They have been so successful that their ice cream is now sold in more than 30 retail locations!
Holy Rolly Charleston
LaToya Gardner is a self-proclaimed ice cream fanatic. She and her husband left the corporate world to achieve their dream of opening a food truck that serves rolled ice cream.
Gardner proudly notes that Holy Rolly Charleston is one of the few rolled ice cream businesses that makes its three-ingredient base—milk, cream, and sugar—from scratch, instead of using a pre-made soft serve mix. “Unlike regular ice cream, which is made by churning air into the base to create volume, rolled ice cream has almost no air incorporated into it.” Instead, they roll the ice cream on a stainless-steel plate that is frozen to -20 degrees Fahrenheit, and then chop and fold in fresh cobblers, cakes, and pies before rolling it into its signature shape. The result is an ice cream with a super rich and creamy taste and texture.
Gardner and her husband rely on the generosity of loved ones when trying out new products. “We mess around with different kinds of baked goods and different variations of ice cream. We test what we think we would like and then we take that to our closest family and friends. Once we have a winner, it makes the menu.”
Read more of our Meet the Merchant stories for real-life stories of small businesses in action all over the country. Want to be featured in this series? Fill out our questionnaire, and if we can include you in a future interview cycle, we’ll send you an invitation!