Thursday, December 30, 2010

A year to remember

I know that I don't make it around here much anymore. I will be the first to admit that Marissa, the English major of the family, writes a bit more poetically than I. But, I have been thinking. I have been thinking a lot about this past year. A year that I never want to forget. But - I will be the first to admit that more often than not my memory is not the sharpest in the tool box. Still, I have decided that I want to remind you (and remind myself) what I do actually remember of the past year. Year 2010.

We met Larry and Judy Campbell a bit prior to the new year at 419 1/2 Third St. Two of the sweetest and caring landlords two young tenants could ever hope to sign a lease with. The future building of Sweet Peaks was a bit out-dated and not ice cream shop ready. However, Marissa and I had a vision and a small budget to go with it. I started building...I built a counter to hold our ice cream dipping cabinet that would one day house 12 artisan ice creams. I laid kitchen flooring, and built sinks and counters where we would work. We bought a couple freezers, and located a small Taylor C119 ice cream batch freezer from a gal in Greeley, CO. On New Years 2010, with our windows covered in brown paper, Marissa and I spent the night on the floor and woke up in the morning in our blossoming ice cream shop. No chairs, no cash register, no smell of waffle cones, not much more than each other and a dream slowing becoming a reality. We laughed at the idea that we were becoming ice cream entrepreneurs, but somehow knew that we were doing something that was so fun and delicious that it just might go over big in this small mountain town.

From January until late March, we worked around the clock. We finalized our opening 12 ice cream flavor recipes, receivedour kitchen equipment and paper goods, paid our licenses and received our health inspections (A for me thank you!) . We spent late nights working and wondering how we would ever get ready to open. Finally, on a sunny day during the first week in April we did it. We could still think of a hundred things we still wanted to do, but we looked at each other and knew that we were ready.

We opened on April 12th 2010. We did not advertise, or really tell many people, we turned on the open sign and hoped for the best. We had customers! I would not say that we were completely surprised, going into business you anticipate people actually coming in, but I will say that I was relieved. Opening in the shoulder season gave us a chance to meet all the local people and get a grasp on what was going to happen day-to-day at the shop. Marissa was still working at her 8-5, which meant that I was working at the shop every weekday and then we worked together on the weekends. My brother Joey offered his help for the opening and it was great to have him around to help me make waffle cones and open and close the shop each day. Every day grew busier and busier as new people ventured to try us out and the tourist season loomed on the horizon. Charlie, from the Buffalo Cafe, came over one day and asked to start selling our Madagascar Vanilla at his restaurant. We were flattered at his request so early in the game. Marissa found a great ice cream box company and we started our wholesale ice cream business. Midway through May we were caught in the decision of starting a mobile Sweet Peaks. We wanted to participate in the local farmers markets as well as various art fairs that seem to go on every weekend during our short summer. We were not sure if we had the time to put something together for summer, or have the time that summer to actually work it. But - being a creative person, I can't stop my creative mind from inspiring my business decisions. I am constantly trying to set myself, my business, and my life on the road less traveled. One morning, on my drive to Sweet Peaks, I happened to be following a small single horse trailer. Perfect! After a couple days craigslist searching, I found the perfect horse trailer and by the 1st of June (and the first farmers market) The Chocolate Rocket was fully operational.

Our fellow local business owners were a great asset as they told us to start gearing up for the quickly approaching tourist season. Many late nights in June were spent with Marissa discussing whether or not we were ready for summer. I love to throw caution to the wind! I begged Marissa to quit her 9-5 as I knew as soon as summer was in full swing I would not be able to run Sweet Peaks alone. I did not have to beg to hard as it was our goal and intention all along. But Marissa being the cautious one needed to think about it and then (which is why we make such a great team) put in her notice and by July 1st Marissa and I were at Sweet Peaks full time. We lucked out and hired some really great people. Erik, Maggie, Mackenzie, and Michela. The first Sweet Peaks summer crew was official, and to be official you get a official Sweet Peaks name. Sammy Two Scoop, Marissa Milkshakes, Erik Extras, Maggie Mango, MaConzie, and Half Pint. The Whitefish Pilot did a very nice article on us and I thought it an great time to announce our FREE ice cream day. I thought a free ice cream day would be a great way to say thanks to all of our regulars. June 8th was our first free ice cream day, and we gave away 700 cones! I plan on doing this every year and next year I want to give away over 1000!

Marissa and I churned out more ice cream last summer than I thought ever possible. We had lines out the door of Sweet Peaks twenty people long at 9:30 at night. The Tuesday farmers market was a huge hit as I scooped 300 cones in less than two hours. We managed to plan a wedding and get married and spent our "honeymoon" making ice cream for the fans of our business. The year of 2010 is a year that I will never forget. A year of success, love and a lot of ice cream.

We have a couple new great ideas for 2011 that include some really great flavors combinations, some great events that the Chocolate Rocket will be attending, and a NEW Sweet Peaks location in a neighboring town! Can't tell you yet until we work out the details but we'll let you know soon. Signing off for 2010. See you next year!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Hello Winter! Welcome to Whitefish, Montana! You have arrived in quite the abrupt fashion and there are a whole lot of people who are pretty excited to have you around.

The mountain opened last weekend and we saw quite a few sunburned cheeks. Yes! It was sunny up on that hill. We are keeping the shop open with sweet delights for your post-skiing caloric needs. The conversations this week in the shop have revolved around the jell-o feeling in the legs of our skiing customers after their first big powder weekend. Keep hitting the hill and then come visit us at the shop. We have these really cute decorations hanging in the windows (Martha Stewart would be proud) and the bright red lights on the building can't be ignored. (Nice work Sam!)

It is finally and officially that time of year. The red and white and green sparkly time of year.

The most requested flavor all summer long was...Candy Cane Mint.

We put off going red and minty until the snow started flying and now we have added it to the flavor line-up. Delicious peppermint ice cream with crushed candy canes in a red swirl. This should be enough of a reason to stop in and grab a cone, cup or pint. But - in case you are still hesitating - we also have Egg Nog Ice Cream. Rich, creamy and delicious! Of course, for the chocolate lovers among you - Chocolate Orange ice cream debuted at the Chef's Classic Fundraiser and is also available in the shop. The next holiday flavor to show up will be some delicious Gingerbread. Sam has a few flavor ideas up his sleeve for January. They will - as you could have predicted - involve bold colors and flavors. (A certain Whitefish High School French class should be warned.)

We hope to see you this weekend for the Christmas Stroll (Dec. 10th) downtown Whitefish. and When you are done strolling or getting your pooch's picture with Santa at Tailwaggers right next door - we will have plenty of holiday flavors and some delicious hot cocoa to warm your fingers.