Just because it’s Fall now doesn’t mean people have to dismiss ice cream as a dessert until Spring. For some people it is ice cream, gelato and sorbet season all year round. As customers walk into either locations of Scooped Ice Cream they immediately feel like they’ve entered into an old fashion Mom & Pop Store.
Located in the historic villages of West Chester and Chester Springs, these gourmet ice cream shops provide an experience unlike most shops in the area. Customers can eat homemade ice cream in either of the two historic settings, including the Chester Springs location where an old historic house was literally picked up and moved across the street to save it from being destroyed.
The profitability of ice cream prompted the owner, John Reece, to open up a second store the summer of 2010. Two stores would equal more productivity out of the equipment Reece has to make his homemade ice cream. Because of this, he and his wife, Liz Reece, felt like they were ready to handle two stores.
When deciding on a location for their second store, the Reeces knew they wanted it to be in West Chester. West Chester is considered a restaurant town and can be very good for business. In addition, Reece also aimed for a corner location at an intersection with a light where people would have to stop and look around. After observing several different locations in West Chester, the Reece’s found a corner location on High Street.
They now have two stores- the one located in West Chester is on its second year and the one located in Chester Springs is on its third year.
When asked about any obstacles they had to overcome and what it took to get the business started, Reece said, “(The store is) more of a ‘Mom & Pop’ (and I’m) trying to figure it all out still.”
Reece felt The Board of Health was tough, but dealing with the Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB) in West Chester was even tougher. When presenting some of his proposals to HARB before opening his second store in West Chester he said, “I was shaking like the cowardly lion in the ‘Wizard of Oz.'”
Learning the whole ins and outs of the food business took a while for Reece who had no prior background in the food industry but rather in retail management.
“One problem can set a business awry… you need the ability to react to the unforeseen,” he said, recalling the time last year when his main freezer broke down at the West Chester store causing the store to open up later in the season than planned.
Reece and his wife decided to open their own business after he was laid off from his job as a GM of Sephora. They came to the conclusion that they would open an ice cream shop. “I was looking for a vehicle to take into retirement,” he said. “I was looking at my retirement and I was thinking I could make it work for me.”
The Reece’s son had worked at a homemade ice cream parlor in Virginia back in college which led to their inspiration. After deciding that they wanted to open up their own business, Reece and his wife Googled ice cream parlors up and down the East coast and visited them. During these visits they tasted a wide variety of ice cream, eventually ending up with two locations that inspired them.
Out of all the locations visited, Reece consulted with the owners of the two ice cream parlors they liked best and discussed the products they used to make their ice cream. The owners of these shops did not reveal their recipes but they did allow the Reece’s to observe their stores. Here they learned that the equipment to make homemade ice cream was essential.
For their equipment, the Reece’s decided upon a Carpigiani ice cream machine produced by an Italian company. “Equipment was one of the pillars… it was the Ferrari of ice cream making,” Reece said.
After learning some valuable tips and information on ice cream making, the Reece’s set out to establish their first store in Chester Springs.
After arriving home, Reece invited vendors to a distribution center in Warminster, Pa. to make ice cream. During this event, Liz took notes on the vendors’ activity and the ingredients they used. Afterwards they came back to their store and played with ingredients until they created their own recipes.
Much of their ingredients come from a free- range farm in Lancaster, Pa. Reece appreciates the fact that the farm uses grass fed, hormone-free cows which he feels makes the ice cream taste better. In addition, the Reece’s also buy the world’s finest organic chocolates and nuts from countries around the world such as Italy to provide customers with the top gourmet ice cream experience.
As for production, Reece said, “I keep a close hand in production because I don’t want to see it slip.” Only him and two other trained employees are allowed to make the ice cream his stores sell.
While Reece manages inventory, Liz is involved with the marketing side of the business.
“My wife is the pillar- she keeps everything working and is really into systems and organization,” he said. “You’ve got to acknowledge what you’re not strong at and surround yourself with people with those strengths.”
Reece was a business major in college and knew that he eventually wanted to own his own business. He worked for two men out of college who started their own Wi-fi shop and from there the desire to own his own business only grew.
When he was asked what advice he’d offer young people interested in owning a business of their own someday he said, “Pursue your dream early.” Reece wished he would have opened his business 10 to 15 years ago so he would have been farther along.
He hopes to open up a couple more stores in the future and continue growing as a business. His short term goal: “To continue to develop the brand.” His long term goal: “To maintain and be true to the vision.”
“I want that individuality in each store,” Reece said. “If I have a picture of the band Kiss on the wall in this store (Chester Springs), I’m going to have a different picture on the wall in the other store (in West Chester).”
Although both stores locations have their fair share of history, Reece went into depth about the building the West Chester store is located in. He explained that the house on Miner St. which the store is located in has only been owned by three parties.
At one time the basement is said to have been a speakeasy that was visited by two famous people: Amelia Earhart and Babe Ruth. The original hardwood floors and large stone fireplace still remain in the basement in addition to a filled in stairwell. This hidden stairwell was used as an escape during the prohibition period if ever the speakeasy was detected.
It is apparent that Reece is excited about the historic locations of both stores and appreciates the history of each. He is also proud of the success he and his wife have had so far with their homemade ice cream.
Scooped Ice Cream was named “Best Homemade Ice Cream” by the critics of Main Line Today. In addition, they earned the “Readers Choice” award for “Best Ice Cream for 2009” in Chester County along with praise from the West Chester Dish website and Downingtown Dish website.
A few of his ice cream creations have not succeeded but Reece has learned that it is okay to make mistakes.
“Everybody’s going to fail at least once,” he said. “It is how you take that failure and learn from it.”
In the end, the Reeces have ended up with some of the best ice cream flavors around, including Coffee with Bailey’s Irish Cream and the Reeces’ favorite, Mint Chocolate Chip.
Hannah Burner is a fourth-year student majoring in English, minoring in journalism. She can be reached at HB674784@wcupa.edu.