Fresno is soon going to be seeing a lot more Ampersand Ice Cream.
The locally owned ice cream shop plans to open a second location and triple its production of ice cream so it can sell at more catering gigs and restaurants.
The popular shop, which just celebrated its third anniversary, is already working on its new location. It will be in the former Togo's sandwich spot at Marks and Herndon avenues, in the same northwest Fresno shopping center as Starbucks. But you'll have to wait a while to try flavors of ice cream like honeycomb, whiskey-caramel or strawberry-balsamic. The owners have several months of work to do before it opens.
Ampersand has plenty of customers driving from northwest Fresno and there aren't a lot of locally owned ice cream shops in that part of town, said Jeff Bennett, who founded the shop with his wife Amelia. (G's Creamery at Bullard and West avenues is one locally owned shop, but most of the others are chains.)
"We do expect the second location to be busier, just because of its location," he said. "We have a lot of customer base that comes from that area."
Fans of the original ice cream shop across from Fresno High School shouldn't worry, Bennett said.
"Echo and Weldon is not closing," he said. "That’s truly where our heart is. This is just an opportunity for us to be able to grow."
They hope to open the new shop in September or October, though it could take a little longer. If all goes as planned, Ampersand's second location will get a state permit allowing it to do more pasteurizing and vastly increase its production.
The second location will add 20 new jobs, six or seven of them making ice cream in the kitchen and the rest involved in serving the public.
The kitchen at the original location is already making ice cream from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week, Bennett said.
While many ice cream shops buy a dairy base to make ice cream, Ampersand makes its own by combining milk, cream, eggs and sugar. That process requires pasteurization and a state permit. Their current kitchen can pasteurize four gallons a day, but they hope to increase that to 30 gallons with the new kitchen.
The increased production means you're going to see Ampersand's ice cream in more places around the city.
"Our goal with this is to really be able to capitalize on the catering side of things that we’re doing," he said. "A lot of it is just being more efficient."
The company is already doing three weddings or private events a week and wants to do more.
In addition to selling at events from a tricycle pulling a cart, the business also has an Airstream trailer – essentially a food truck – that serves ice cream, milkshakes and ice cream sandwiches. It has served ice cream at events like Grizzly Fest and FresYes Fest, but the owners have turned down other gigs because they didn't have enough ice cream.
"We haven’t really run it as much as we would like," Bennett said. "The goal is to get the Airstream out every day."
The landlord at the northwest location first approached Ampersand's owners with an offer, and Fresno First Bank is helping them finance the expansion.
"It was a door that just opened so widely that we have to do this," Bennett said. "Our passion is downtown and Tower and that’s really where we want to be, but this just opened up so widely that we’d be stupid not to do this."