June 2015

Hilton Head Ice Cream

Author: Linda S. Hopkins | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Have you noticed that you or your children have been screaming more lately? Could it be that you need ice cream? With the summer season in full gear, Hilton Head Ice Cream, the island’s first micro-creamery, founded by Creegan Edmonds in 1982, is churning up fresh, homemade frozen treats sure to have you screaming for more.

If you’ve visited before, prepare to be surprised and delighted, as this little slice of paradise has recently undergone a massive renovation. According to new owner, Kate Knisely, whose mission is to maintain the integrity of the product and the feel of the original business, the quality of the ice cream remains the same; the goal is to enhance the overall customer experience and grow the brand.

Love at first lick
The Hilton Head Ice Cream experience begins with a premium product, Knisely says, eyes lighting up as she explains what makes her ice cream the best in town. “We are back here every day making it fresh,” she said. “Not only do we make ice cream, but we make a premium ice cream. We truly surpass the normal standard.”

A common practice in the industry is to water down the cream, which causes ice crystals to form, making the texture a bit crunchy, Knisely explained. The other common practice is to pump air into the ice cream, making it super fluffy but not dense. Hilton Head Ice Cream does neither.

“I could make cheaper ice cream if we pumped a lot of air into it, but this is a traditional, genuine ice cream, like you would have found in the 1950s,” Knisely said.

“We look for the best ingredients, not the most economical,” said Jeff Jukofsky, primary ice cream maker, who has been with the company for 12 years. “We don’t try to be the cheapest. We aim to be the best.” Having worked in every aspect of the business, Jukofsky clearly displays a sense of ownership and pride in his work. “It’s kind of cool to physically make something by hand that brings a premium price,” he said.

Hilton Head Ice Cream typically keeps 35 flavors on hand at any one time—the 25 most popular, with old favorites and new creations rotated in. According to Jukofsky, he introduces a new flavor once or twice a week and tries to perfect a new flavor once a month.

The most popular flavors are Oreo, Cookie Monster, and butter pecan. The latest premier addition is New York strawberry cheesecake. Other innovative flavors include espresso, Kahlua chip, and bananas foster. For a subtle jolt of heat on the finish, don’t miss cayenne chocolate. (Taste and count to five for the kick.)

Besides dishing up the best ice cream in town, Knisely is proud to serve freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, made daily from her mother’s highly confidential recipe. And with a new state-of-the-art coffee machine, she has your espresso, latte, or cappuccino craving covered, too.

Owner Kate Knisely presents a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, made daily from her mother’s top-secret recipe.

What else is new?
Besides its new owner and new products, the shop has a fresh look. Retail customers will recognize some of the decorative accessories, but they will notice more space to move around, a new 180-gallon fish tank, counter seating and a cleaner, more streamlined topping bar. A trip to the restroom, painted to resemble the original board game Candy Land, is an adventure in itself. Customers can also enjoy the new outdoor deck plus a full viewing window, allowing a peek at the process.

Behind the scenes, the changes are even more dramatic. While Knisely kept and still uses the original ice cream maker, she invested in a brand new hi-tech machine that not only makes ice cream but can also make gelato, she said. Everything else, from the scoopers to the walk-in freezers, is new.

“For me, this is a whole new experience,” Jukofsky said. “The freezers have doubled our capacity for what we can store and is wonderful going into season. This gives us a little bit of cushion.”

Knisely credits architect Matthew Taylor for the meticulous planning that has allowed her to maximize the space both functionally and aesthetically. “I love the whole mom-and-pop feel,” she said, pointing out some of the original elements as well as her own touch of nostalgia, including her My Size Barbie and a treasure chest from childhood.

Continuing the theme of blending old and new, Knisely has purchased an original 1950s ice cream truck, which is being restored for use starting later this summer. Hilton Head Ice Cream has obtained town approval for the mobile business, which will be in operation at festivals, farmers markets and private events.

The beautifully renovated storefront on New Orleans Road.

Wholesale and special occasion opportunities
In addition to the retail ice cream experience, Hilton Head Ice Cream offers wholesale opportunities and customized products for restaurants and private events. You name it, they can create it, including exclusive products with exclusive rights. Many local restaurants serve Hilton Head Ice Cream as part of their dessert menus, and event planners are in awe of the capacity for made-to-order specialties.

“We can come up with anything back here,” Jukofsky said. Distinctive flavor examples include Guinness ice cream, chocolate martini, champagne sorbet and many more. Customized cookies are also available.
The primary deliver person, Will Hull, has been with Hilton Head Ice Cream over five years, starting out scooping in the front. He does a little bit of everything now, including making ice cream on weekends. Like Jukofsky, Hull is a year-round employee and has taken a leadership role within the organization, believing in the product and knowing that he is delivering the best.

Beyond the product
As every wise business owner knows, happy customers come back and spread the word. Beyond the product, a can-do attitude is king.

“Sometimes people come into town and want a specific flavor. Give me 48 hours’ notice, and we’ll be happy to prepare it for you,” Knisely said. “The biggest thing I want is customer service,” she continued. “My dad advised me to run it like Disney World. He said, ‘You never go to Disney World and see Cinderella having a bad day.’ People come here for an experience. Any employee who comes in with a frown will be sent home.”

“We get a lot of tourists and it may be the one time they come in here. You’ve gotta stay consistent with that good attitude,” Jukofsky added.

“Jeff and Will do everything there is to do,” Knisely said. “We work closely together. We are family. We enjoy what we do and we get to make people smile.”

When you scream for ice cream, don’t settle for watered down, air-filled ice cream when you can have the creamiest and dreamiest treat of all at Hilton Head Ice Cream. 

Hilton Head Ice Cream is located at 55 New Orleans Rd., #114, on the back side of Fountain Center. For directions and more information, visit hiltonheadicecreamshop.com or call (843) 842-6333.

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