By now, many New Yorkers are familiar with the-little-ice-cream-shop-that-could fairy tale. In 2011, Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna (partners in ice cream crime and married in real life) opened up their fledgling Ample Hills Creamery in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.
On that opening day, the fairy tale took on somewhat of a nightmarish quality. After customers scooped up all of their initial batch of 130 gallons of their made-from-scratch ice cream, Cuscuna and Smith had to temporarily close their shop a mere four days later so they could make more of their homemade fare.
Just seven years later, Ample Hills has opened up their eleventh East Coast location. Situated on a relatively quiet stretch of Van Brunt Street in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, the new 15,000 square-foot factory came to life on July 26. The space also includes a scoop shop as well as an ice cream museum.
New life in “The Hook”
The aesthetics of the Red Hook location are impressive, replete with a gantry sign that recalls the once-iconic Kentle Floors sign. Below the signage sits the scoop shop which offers an array of well-known Ample Hills flavors.
In addition to the Ample Hills standbys, the menu also includes “The Hook,” their brand new flavor which features burnt sugar ice cream, house-made stroopwafels, and chunks of salted fudge. The team notes that the flavor serves as an homage to the Lenape people, the Dutch settlers of Red Hook, as well as the old Revere Sugar Refinery factory.
Behind the scooping area is a 2,200 square-foot interactive ice cream museum which was designed by C&G partners in collaboration with Ample Hills Creamery Creative Director, Lauren Kaelin. The impressive design features a whimsical 22 foot-wide map of Brooklyn as well as a climb-through area, representative of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. (There’s a secret scene inside, so don’t hesitate to get down on your hands and knees — no matter your age.) “Ours is more of a traditional museum that pays homage to the way that ice cream is made and how we make our ice cream,” says Jackie Cuscuna.
However, the main feature of the space is what sits behind the museum glass for all to view. The factory production space, which takes up more than 12,000 square feet, has an on-premises bakery, an industrial scale continuous freezing method, as well as “a mechanical system to evenly distribute their fan favorite mix-ins.”
The stats of this new mechanical system are impressive. Ample Hills estimates that the new factory will produce more than 500,000 gallons of ice cream per year. And for those of you who enjoy the “mix-ins” that are added to their ice cream, the on-site bakery will be creating their housemade peppermint patties, honeycomb candy, pistachio brittle, munchie mix, and brownies from scratch.
Designing Ample Hills
From their flagship store in Prospect Heights to their recent “beyond the borough” addition in Jersey City, designer Danielle Galland has played a prominent role in transforming each Ample Hills space into communal venues which also address the practical needs necessary to run a growing business.
Galland, who started her interior design firm in 2004, has successfully captured Ample Hills’ vision on a much larger scale with the new Red Hook factory space. “We try to find unique spaces that offer some kind of nuance or neighborhood thing or historic building or something interesting about it inherently,” she says. “I find that exciting. I try to design it to suit that location, too.”
When asked about how the Red Hook factory connects to other Ample Hills venues, Galland highlights the classroom tours. “There are a lot of city kids that will be coming through here. That’s a huge part of the community element we’re trying to serve through that space,” she says. In addition, revealing as much of the factory as possible for the viewer was a high priority. “The only things you’re not seeing is warehousing and big freezer boxes.”
When asked about the challenges of capturing the feel of Ample Hills as their retail outlet growth continues, Galland speaks about the tonality of the brand. “We have a finished palette we’ve developed and I like to change it a little bit with each space,” says Galland. “The tile will change a little but the colors and feeling of it won’t. The artwork is really critical — and not letting it get too serious. You have a sophisticated brand of ice cream … but, it’s still ice cream. That is always what we are trying to maintain; that you look inviting to children, but it’s not just a children’s space, and it’s not this super-serious rarified artisanal ‘let me prove through the space how artisanal I am.’ Trying not to get too precious I think is key.”
Churning Across America
Ample Hills continues to build their New York City metro area presence. Cuscuna estimates that their forthcoming Prospect Park location next to the future Nitehawk Cinema space will open in early 2019. However, Smith and Cuscuna are taking it on the road.
“We have a nice clean RV. Well, it’s nice and clean for now,” says Cuscuna. Along with their two children, the co-owners are hitting the road on what they’re referring to as “Churning Across America.” They’ll be heading cross-country to scoop ice cream on a route that’ll hit Appalachia, the Midwest, a stint on Route 66, and westward.
They’ll touch down in Los Angeles’ Los Feliz neighborhood which will be home to their first West Coast scoop shop. It’s all part of the company’s goal to go national. The-little-ice-cream-shop-that-could hit approximately $7.5 million in revenue in 2017. While that may be a long way from Ben & Jerry’s (approximated $1.23 billion annually), Cuscuna and Smith are aiming very high.
“I remember how scary it was when we opened our doors for the first time wondering if people would come, and if they’d keep coming,” Cuscuna once told us.
In 2018, they keep coming.
Ample Hills Creamery’s Red Hook Factory is open daily, Sunday-Thursday (12-10 pm) and Friday-Saturday (12-11 pm). For more information, visit www.amplehills.com or follow Ample Hills Creamery on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @AmpleHills.
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