The Business of Ice Cream

There is an art to scooping the perfect homemade ice cream cone.

With a right arm made strong by two seasons working at Wemple & Edicks in Sammonsville, Sarah Wagoner demonstrated her practiced technique at one of the big ice cream tubs behind the store’s vintage counter.

“You have to take your scoop and go around the bucket, so none of it dries out,” she said scooping out pink, homemade strawberry ice cream. “And you have to make it about 8 ounces per scoup.”

Although the growing yogurt industry has received most of the headlines in recent years, ice cream, whether hard packed or soft served, remains a popular dairy product with increasing local production. July is national ice cream month, and local ice cream retailors say the public’s appetite for ice cream remains strong and is indeed growing.

“Every year we increase,” said Wemple and Edicks owner Laura Channell. “We’re having a good year, ice cream sales are good. They’re above where they were last year at this time.”

Local production

Laura and her husband Bob Channell have owned Wemple & Edicks since 2001. The store, which has operated since 1897, has been selling ice cream since the 1930s. During the season, from Mother’s Day to Halloween, Bob makes the ice cream inside the store using a five-gallon freezer and recipes written on 3 by 5 cards they purchased from the previous owner. They credit their success to what goes into the ice cream, including the use of a premium ice cream mix with 16 percent butterfat content. They also emphasize the freshness of the product.

“We use very high-end ingredients, we don’t cut any corners,” Laura said. “My husband uses local maple syrup in our maple walnut and we get our cream from Mohawk Dairy, so that’s another local company. We don’t skimp,”

Udderly Delicious owner Vicky Skiff said her family, which also owns Skiff’s Dairy, has been in the soft serve ice cream business for nine years.

“We’re just diversified, my husband Jim and I have been married 30 years and we’ve always worked well together, so Udderly just kind of fit in the mix of what we do, like a finger off of it -it’s all dairy,” she said.

Udderly Delicious makes its soft ice cream using an ice cream mix that uses milk from Byrne Dairy, which buys wholesale milk from Skiff’s Dairy and processes it before selling it back to them.

“They write us a check and then we turn around and write them a check,” she said. “We get five tractors trainers a week.”

Skiff said she believes two of the keys to Udderly’s success are portion size and fresh ingredients.

“People ask, ‘is that a syrup mix’ and we actually use fresh strawberries and Jim blends all that fruit and people say there is a big difference between syrups and fresh fruit. You know when it’s an in-the-can product. With us, you can taste the freshness,” she said.

Skiff said this year her business had to increase prices slightly to compensate for increased costs, but demand has remained steady for their soft ice cream. Udderly has also begun serving premium hard ice cream this season to tap into that market.

New producer

Udderly Delicious isn’t the only local company looking to get into hard ice creams sales, Joseph Semione, the owner of Perfection Cleaning Service, is nearing completion of a new homemade ice cream store. The 1,500 square store will be located on the property of the former Meco Volunteer Fire Department on County Highway 101, near Meco Elementary School.

“We’re going to offer soft serve, but we’re going to be similar to Wemple and Edicks; my wife is going to be making her own homemade ice cream,” he said.

Semione said the new business, which will be called “Meco’s Perfect Scoop”, will feature hard ice cream with 14 percent butterfat. He said he hopes to be in operation by spring 2015, but might open in the fall, if construction is completed fast enough.