When the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop opens sometime in June, it will be the brick-and-mortar manifestation not only of the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck but also the way that stars, against all odds, sometimes magically align.
“This is our dream location,” Doug Quint says about his new home at 125 East 7th Street. Over the last year and a half, he and partner Bryan Petroff had had a “few different offers” to turn their soft-serve truck into a storefront, but “it kept coming down to we wanted to be on East 7th Street. Nothing else felt right — we’re downtown. We listen to the Ramones while we work.” And the street’s supportive food community, which includes Porchetta, Luke’s Lobster, and Butter Lane, was an added incentive.
After looking at some potential locations that included the Upper West Side and Fire Island, Quint and Petroff had a fortuitous encounter with Luke Holden, Luke’s Lobster’s co-owner. He told them that the Xoom Juice Bar space was up for rent, as Xoom was relocating to a gym.
And so the Big Gay Ice Cream truck became the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop. For the past couple of weeks, Quint and Petroff have been spending all of their spare time ordering equipment, planning the shop’s layout, and replicating the truck logo’s color scheme with the Disney line of paint, which boasts shades with names like “Invitation to a Princess” and “Mickey’s Gloves.” They’re also trying to figure out how to decorate the walls: Petroff, who recently quit his day job in the fashion industry to manage the store, is thinking of something along the lines of a poster for John Waters’s Female Trouble, though earlier this week Quint was mulling the idea of pegasuses and maybe a minotaur with Bea Arthur’s head.
One thing Quint and Petroff are certain of is that the store will allow them to expand their product line. “There’s all sorts of stuff I’ve been making that I can’t do on the truck because of space,” Quint says. “Spicy cocoa sauce, dry toppings. I love doing the truck” — which he will continue to drive after the store opens — “but there are so many space restrictions. The store had to happen.”
In another happy coincidence, the recipe testing Quint and Petroff are conducting for their 2012 cookbook has given them the opportunity to create hard ice creams that they’ll sell along their soft-serve. They’re currently planning in the neighborhood of four flavors, all custard-based, once the summer season is over and they have a chance to scale their recipes up a bit. They’re also planning to carry products from other vendors: The Treats Truck will supply cookies for sundaes and cake cookies for ice cream whoopie pies, while Danny Macaroons will provide its signature wares and Melt Bakery its ice cream sandwiches.
The store will carry two soft-serve machines: One will make chocolate and vanilla, while the other will churn out custom flavors. “There’s not anything too terrifying on the menu because we’re not like that,” Quint says. “I don’t like to have flavors that are based on kitsch appeal, nor do I like stuff that’s so subtle it doesn’t taste like anything. We just like big, bold flavors — we really feel that our favorite ice creams are one or two strong notes or combinations. We don’t like packing in candy. Something like olive oil and fig ice cream, or a sundae with sriracha — those are pretty strong but simple flavors that just appeal to our palate.”
The topping menu, however, “will be vast,” Quint says.
Early in the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck’s life, Quint was approached to franchise the truck in countries as far away as Malaysia. Having a store, he says, is much more to his liking. “A franchise didn’t seem like the right model,” he says. “There’s so many variables, and it’s entirely dependent on the person who’s working on it. Our favorite truck is the Treats Truck — you can’t have it without Kim [Ima, its owner]. There will be a bigger personality to the store” that will surpass whomever is working behind the counter, he adds. “It’s pretty fucking exciting.”