A word often heard when speaking to owners of local ice cream, gelato and custard shops is “joy.” And while there is a long lineage of cool ventures around the region, each unique in its offerings, there is one ingredient they all share: a desire to create something everyone enjoys.
“I want to bring people together, and ice cream is a way to do that,” says Alfonso Clarke, co-founder of The Neighborhood Scoop, an ice cream trailer that operates from Thursday to Sunday at The Market at 25th in Church Hill.
Clarke, a grandfather of four and a natural storyteller, grew up in Fairfield Court. He says the idea for the ice cream trailer evolved from a conversation with his friend and neighbor of 15 years, Lawson Wijesooriya.
Reminiscing about former Church Hill mainstay High’s Ice Cream and taking notice of the lack of ice cream parlors in their area, the duo saw an opportunity. In 2017, they applied for, and received, a Supporting East End Entrepreneurship Development (SEED) grant to launch the business.
“I knew nothing about ice cream, and I don’t think she did, either,” says Clarke, now the sole operator, with a laugh.
Since its inception, the trailer has made appearances at East End nonprofit Peter Paul and local schools offering free cones, hosted food drives and hired young people from the community.
“[We are] not trying to get rich off of this trailer,” Clarke says. “We just want it to be in the community where kids can learn how to make business and money in the right way — this is what the machine is for, and that’s what The Neighborhood Scoop is all about.”
A newer addition to the region’s ice cream purveyors, and one with a similar community-oriented focus is Sweet Spot Ice Cream Cafe in Shockoe Bottom. The space channels big-city energy with a purple-and-green neon sign and a grass-like wall that invites customers to snap pics of their cones or shakes.
The vision of longtime Richmond resident and Realtor Sabrina Fitz, Sweet Spot has its own ordering app, an automated phone system and a VIP membership club with discounts and perks.
“We have so many people excited to come in here happy, and that means a lot to me, making somebody’s day,” Fitz says.
Her desire to open the shop came from her late mother, Arlene, who died five years ago. “I knew ice cream was her favorite, and I thought, ‘What do people like that I could do in honor of her?’ ” she says. “Everyone likes ice cream.”
In the break room, next to a mission statement that says, “Bring joy and happiness through dessert,” there are emails and letters from community organizations, thanking Sweet Spot for donations and support.
“That’s part of our wheelhouse — community and being able to support each other,” Fitz says.
Bev Mazursky, 86, is the founder and namesake behind the longstanding Carytown ice cream parlor.
“I’m in the shop every day,” she says. “I open the store and am usually there until 2:30 or 3 p.m. and make sure it’s run the way I want. I do it all.”
Her favorite ice cream flavor? “Plain, simple, pure, outstanding vanilla — such a clean taste, and from the vanilla comes everything,” she says.
As for experimenting with new flavors for the shop’s menu, she says, “Usually nine out of 10 times, the first time is great.”
The Culinary Institute of America graduate opened her ice cream shop at age 51, and while she’s still running the show, her hope for the future is that the woman-owned biz continues that way.
“I hate to say it, but I’m going to say it — I think a woman’s taste buds in the kitchen is excellent, so I would love to see the store sold to a woman with interest in dessert who has a daughter who would carry it on.”
It was his daughters, and nostalgia, that inspired Jimer’s Frozen Custard owner James McAndrew to open his 1950s-inspired ice cream trailer.
“I basically wanted to do this for my daughters when growing up to have a place to work, and it’s gotten crazy, to say the least,” says McAndrew, a Pennsylvania transplant who has been eating soft serve since he was a kid.
McAndrew proudly says his custard is regulated by the USDA, which means that by law it must contain 10% butterfat and 1.4% egg-yolk solids.
Open for over a decade in Moseley, Jimer’s draws regulars from the West End to Farmville, some arriving with coolers to stock up. It’s not unusual to see as many as 40 people waiting in line for the stand to open.
Nick DeLuca and his wife, Terry, opened DeLuca Gelato 15 years ago.
A former Latin teacher, he first tried dark chocolate-orange-flavored gelato in Italy during a school trip, and it got the New York native’s mind churning, curious how to re-create the flavor. He registered for a course in gelato-making, and the rest is history.
“There are scant hours over the last 15 years you come in this building and will not find one of us here,” he says.
The couple practically raised their two sons, now 17 and 19, in the shop, where it was common for customers to spot them finger painting, and later doing homework.
“I recognize people from the day we opened, and it’s nice,” DeLuca says. “I think we’ve become a part of the community.”
The vision of former Stella’s baker Chelle Bravo and her husband, Omar Bravo Carbajal, Coco & Hazel offers scoops, cones and ice cream sandwiches, but the biggest draw for customers has to be their milkshakes. Topped with everything from churros to black-and-white cookies and whole cake slices, the towering shakes are showstoppers.
“We get a lot of adults with the same reaction when they come in,” says Bravo, an industry veteran. “It’s one of those nostalgic moments where an adult gets to be a kid for a second.”
With a second Coco & Hazel location set to debut this month at 2733 McRae Road — Bravo describes it as the “more sophisticated older sister” to the original Rige Road outpost — she says her goal, like fellow ice cream-makers around the region, is to continue to make people smile.
“If this is one thing where people get to be happy,” Bravo says, “I want to bring into the world that excitement and happiness.”
Destination: Ice Cream
Track down frozen treats across the region
Bev’s Homemade Ice Cream & Cafe
2911 W. Cary St.
Boppers Malt Shop
414 N. Sycamore St., Petersburg
Charm School Social Club
311 W. Broad St.
Charm School Study Hall
4930 Forest Hill Ave., Suite D
Coco & Hazel
411 N. Ridge Road
Coco & Hazel
2733 McRae Road
Crossroads Coffee & Ice Cream
3600 Forest Hill Ave.
The Dairy Bar
1602 Roseneath Road
7310 Staples Mill Road
1362 Gaskins Road
11800 W. Broad St., Unit 1058
Gelati Celesti — Bon Air
3004 Stony Point Road
Gelati Celesti — Grove Avenue
5808 Grove Ave.
Gelati Celesti — Mechanicsville
9357 Atlee Road, Suite 1105
Gelati Celesti — Scott’s Addition
1400 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd.
Gelati Celesti — Short Pump
11805 W. Broad Street Road
Gelati Celesti — Swift Creek
13487 Hull Street Road
Gelati Celesti — West End
8906 W. Broad St.
2447 County Drive, Petersburg
IC Scoops & Diner
12106 Boydton Plank Road, Dinwiddie
Jiji Frozen Custard
Check jijifrozencustard.com for locations.
Jimer’s Frozen Custard
20800 Hull Street Road, Moseley
3115 W. Cary St.
7808 Midlothian Turnpike
9110 Jefferson Davis Highway
1800-A South Creek One, Powhatan
2400 W. Main St.
Narwhals Rolled Ice Cream
3313 W. Cary St.
The Neighborhood Scoop
Nine Mile Road
North End Gelato
718 N. Cleveland St.
Nutty Buttery Cafe
701 W. Clay St.
Ray’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard
3039 Lauderdale Drive
120 W. Brookland Park Blvd.
403 Strawberry St.
Visit spottydogicecream.com for delivery details.
405 Brook Road
Sugar Sweet Dessert Cafe
9555-L, Kings Charter Drive
3312 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd.
Sweet Spot Ice Cream Cafe
6 N. 18th St.
The Treat Shop
6114 Jahnke Road
The Treat Shop – Midlothian
14736 Village Square Place
Vampire Penguin Shaved Ice
11345 Nuckols Road
Wally’s Sweet Spot
4220 Celebration Ave.