I've had my stab at a few of the country's top ice cream shops and I believe that Scoops has a place among them. I was pleasantly surprised this year when Complex Magazine named Scoops Westside the top ice cream shop in the country, ahead of some other excellent producers. I actually didn't believe it when I saw it. I still don't think we're better than some of the other shops (let alone Scoops on Heliotrope!) but I think that what I helped to do was digitize Scoops marketing strategy and make it accessible for people who live on the other side of town. Seeing this kind of enthusiasm and support for the product we sell has made it easier to be enthusiastic about ice cream. Still, everyday there are people who certain expectations about what we ought to be (plain Jane vanilla, for example), and I have to try and convince them to try something new. Ice cream, like coffee, wine, and beer, is highly ingrained in people's perceptions. In fact, it's even difficult to place what Scoops exactly is. It's not quite old fashioned American ice cream nor is it true Italian gelato - it's somewhere in between, with the advantages of both (creaminess vs. lightness of texture vs. unique flavors).
Another aspect that I've learned is that ice cream, like any food business, is about relating to people. It's easy to become a "nazi" if you know how good your product is. It's easy to dismiss people and just turn them away if they don't understand the kind of product you present. The harder thing to do is to sell people on your concept, and be patient while they try and understand. The ones you win over will be your strongest supporters and those who keep trying, well, it's your job to keep selling, shaving away unnecessary bits and pieces along the way.
At its core, ice cream is a personal thing - it's the perfect reminder of childhood, that Rosebud of our lives that we can turn to when things are off kilter or uncertain. Sugar, cream, milk - it's all a formula of familiarity. It's in that medium that we try and bend perceptions and expectations. When we give people flavors with goat cheese or bacon bits, wasabi or durian, we're allowing people to taste and see something completely extraordinary in a familiar context.
After a year of doing this, you start seeing the beauty in continuing to show newcomers. You get just a little bit giddy when someone says it's their first time here and you present a little nub of fresh ice cream on a shiny metal demitasse spoon, and you see their reaction to tasting it. I've had some customers literally bang their fists on the glass display, or hang their head back at the amazing flavor of what they've tasted. I'm sure other people who work in the food/hospitality industry strive to see this reaction in their customers, the ones who overtly express their joy and satisfaction with their food and drink. I think it's ultimately what drives those who are passionate about serving people.
Another incredible benefit of working at a shop has been the number of relationships I've built. I really appreciate all the friends who have supported me and come by from all walks of life. It would take too long to give a shout out to everyone, but I'm super thankful for all the food, coffee, lunches, six-packs, etc.