Bethany Clough

One of Fresno’s favorite ice cream shops opened its second location. See what’s different

Ampersand ice cream shop launches second location in north Fresno

Jeff and Amelia Bennett, owners of the popular Ampersand ice cream shop in the Fresno High neighborhood, launch their second shop at northeast corner of Marks and Herndon.
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Jeff and Amelia Bennett, owners of the popular Ampersand ice cream shop in the Fresno High neighborhood, launch their second shop at northeast corner of Marks and Herndon.

The little ice cream shop with the big following has opened its second location.

Ampersand Ice Cream’s northwest scoop shop opened over the weekend at 7010 N. Marks Ave. at Herndon Avenue. It’s in the same shopping center as Starbucks.

The original Ampersand will stay open at 1940 N. Echo Ave., across from Fresno High School.

That locally owned ice cream shop has been hugely popular with Fresnans ever since it opened in 2015. It’s bursting at the seams, so owners Jeff and Amelia Bennett decided to open a second location.

The store still carries made-from-scratch ice cream, like the popular whiskey caramel swirl flavor, honeycomb ice cream with chunks of actual honeycomb in it, and bordeaux – a brown sugar flavor with fudge ripples and chocolate sprinkles.

New shop is bigger, and more

What’s different is the size of the place and everything that the extra space allows Ampersand to do.

The new shop is bigger all around, with a vintage feel. The production area where the ice cream is made is quadruple the size of the one near Fresno High.

Large windows let customers watch the ice cream being made. Three large machines (compared to one at the old place) mix the ice cream and employees pull it out with giant spoons. Two pasteurizers with gauges process the milk and cream from Top O’ The Morn Farms in Tulare into a base that flavors are added to. (This is one thing that makes Ampersand different, the owners say, adding that many ice cream shops buy a pre-made base. Doing it themselves makes it creamier and lets them tinker with butterfat and sugar levels to get the flavor they want.)

Amelia Bennett, co-owner of Ampersand ice cream shop, makes whiskey caramel swirl ice cream at the company’s new location at Herndon and Marks avenues in northwest Fresno on Monday morning, Feb. 11, 2019. JOHN WALKER

The new Ampersand is still in its soft opening, so not everything is up and running yet. But when it is, Ampersand will have 25 seats, locally brewed root beer on tap, a house soda made with seasonal fruit, ice cream sandwiches with cookies baked in house, and pre-packed pints of ice cream for sale.

One of the biggest changes will be the increase in the amount of ice cream Ampersand can make. The original location is at capacity, Jeff Bennett said.

“We just run that thing ragged,” he said. “We can’t produce another pan of ice cream at that location than we currently do.”

The equipment at the original location lets them produce four gallons of pasteurized base at a time, compared to 16 gallons at the new place. And they now have a walk-in cooler and more than double the freezer space.

That will allow them to sell ice cream at more off-site events, like weddings, music festivals and other catering gigs. Ampersand uses an Airstream trailer for many events, or its tricycle that tows a cooler full of ice cream.

A bigger oven will let them bake more cookies and put more mix-ins, say brownies, into the ice cream.

But Ampersand still plans on being the neighborhood ice cream shop.

Feels like home

The new location was one the Bennetts had actually considered before opening the Fresno High spot. Amelia Bennett grew up in this northwest neighborhood and the couple often visit her parents, who still live there.

They know they have plenty of customers from this neighborhood who drive to the original location on the edge of the Tower District. The northwest neighborhood has lots of walkers, even golf cart drivers who live near or golf at San Joaquin Country Club.

And with Mad Duck Brewing Co.’s third location under construction just next door, customers can get a meal or a beer before going out for ice cream.

“We knew we had to … be where it still feels like us, still feels authentic,” she said. “It feels like the most natural extension we could have hoped for.”

Details: Ampersand is open noon to 11 p.m. daily, 7010 N. Marks Ave., suite 101. 559-478-5858.

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Bethany Clough covers restaurants and retail for The Fresno Bee. A reporter for 20 years, she now works to answer readers’ questions about business openings, closings and other business news. She has a degree in journalism from Syracuse University and her last name is pronounced Cluff.