Steve's Ice Cream Is Being Reborn in the Blue Marble Space, and Giving Mix-Ins the Brooklyn Artisanal Treatment
If you grew up in Boston, you probably grew up with Steve's Ice Cream, the Somerville store that is credited with introducing Americans to the concept of both premium ice cream and mix-ins. When owner Steve Herrell decided in 1973 to smoosh bits of Heath Bar Crunch into his scoops, he unwittingly paved the way for companies like Ben & Jerry's and Cold Stone Creamery, to say nothing of Dairy Queen Blizzards and even Shake Shack's concretes.
After Herrell sold the business in 1977, it went through a number of different owners and corporate takeovers before closing in the late 1990s. But this spring, Steve's is being resurrected, in none other than the former Blue Marble space on Atlantic Avenue.
"Right now, we're finishing the design of the space," says Forbes Fisher. Fisher is the president of the company, which was relaunched last year after its new founder and main investor bought back the trademark from the company's last registered owner. Steve's, he says, is actually planning to open two New York storefronts later this spring: There will also be one near Bryant Park.
If ice cream can be said to have a terroir, the new Steve's is definitely that of Brooklyn. The company, which began developing and testing new flavors last year, is creating partnerships with a number of the borough's artisanal producers: To date, Salvatore Bklyn is supplying the ricotta in Steve's strawberry ricotta ice cream, Kombucha Brooklyn's eponymous brew is the base for a kombucha sorbet, and Plowshares coffee stars in a coffee-cinnamon ice cream. Taza, a chocolate company based in Somerville, Massachusetts, is also supplying chocolate for both flavors and toppings; its chocolate-covered cacao nibs appear in Steve's dairy-free mint-cacao chip.
"We couldn't have gotten something like this two or three years ago because there wasn't enough out there to do specialty mix-ins," Fisher says. "To me, the best part of this job is getting to work with so many artisanal producers and forging partnerships."
The store, he explains, will carry 16 flavors that will rotate on a seasonal basis. Some of them are already available in Steve's pint line, which is sold at Union Market and the Park Slope Food Coop, and will be moving into Whole Foods and Fairway in the next couple of weeks.
Seven of the flavors, Fisher says, will be made with dairy from Hudson Valley Fresh, while another seven will be made dairy-free, from a coconut milk base. There will also be two sorbets, and, possibly next year, a novelty line including ice cream sandwiches and salty caramel bars. Everything will be produced at the company's facility on Long Island. That's where everything will be mixed in, too -- because of consistency issues, Fisher explains, ingredients won't be mixed to order like they were at the original Steve's.
And unlike the original Steve's storefront, the one on Atlantic Avenue, Fisher says, "will be more than an ice cream store. We want to showcase all our partners. We'll do drip coffee, have Kombucha Brooklyn on tap, sell Taza chocolate bars and nibs." They'll also have Slayer coffee machines and a full coffee program, as well as egg creams, milkshakes, and ice cream sundaes. "We want it to be more of a holistic experience of our whole brand," he continues. "We want it to be kind of an experience where you walk in and see all of our different partners and [the ingredients] they use and see what we do with them as far as making them into craft artisanal ice cream."
Fisher describes Steve's ice cream -- which will sell for between $4 and $4.50 for a four-ounce scoop -- as having "more of a culinary feel," and when he talks about the store's sundaes, it's clear that he means business. "We'll make our own cones and fudge and whipped cream. It won't be something where you walk in and say, 'Hey, I want that with whipped cream and toppings.' The two featured sundaes will be curated and very composed by us because we do have interesting flavors. It's not, 'Vanilla-chocolate-strawberry, and, hey, what do you want on top?' We'll do different types of sundaes using toppings from our partners."
But what about those customers who do fall into the chocolate-and-vanilla-with-whipped-cream camp?
"We won't be the soup Nazis of the ice cream world," Fisher clarifies, laughing. "We'll be as accommodating as possible, but on the menu we'll push people having an experience because we put a lot of time and effort in making these compositions and we think people will enjoy them. But if someone wants plain chocolate with whipped cream on top, we won't say no to them, because the customer is always right."
He also takes pains to clarify that while Steve's is courting adult palates with ingredients like kombucha, porter ale, bourbon, and Mexican chilies, they'll have "plenty of kid-friendly flavors" as well. Sounding very much like the people who make his mix-ins, Steve's, Fisher says, is about "having something where people can come in and have a culinary experience and really enjoy it." Even if "it" is a single rogue scoop of vanilla.
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