Local ice cream chain The Penny Ice Creamery has announced it will be joining mixed-use development The Hangar at Skypark in Scotts Valley.
They hope to win over the taste buds of local residents through the 262 Mount Hermon Road site, as they have in downtown Santa Cruz, Pleasure Point and Aptos, through a homemade, small-batch approach to chilly treats.
“We were certainly eyeing Scotts Valley for a while,” said co-owner Zach Davis, adding he knew the time was right when approached with the idea, since he often takes his three kids to play nearby. “I can’t overstate the proximity to Skypark.”
The ice creamery is the first out of the gate to announce they’re joining The Hangar at Skypark building, spearheaded by Corbett Wright and Rob Stuart, developers with deep ties to Scotts Valley. They previously revealed they’d be launching a tap room and community space, located within the 58-acre Town Center area that the city has been attempting to develop for more than a decade as a regional hub with residential, commercial and civic uses.
Davis’s business partner Kendra Baker says she’s equally thrilled to open the location, since she has two children who also enjoy the surrounding recreation facilities.
“We kind of get the family perspective on things,” Davis said, suggesting they may be able to provide the antidote to future playtime mishaps in the form of delectable artisanal scoopage. “When a kid falls off the monkey bars, it’s no joke.”
Wright’s architectural approach taps into popular “industrial chic” trends in retail, while giving a nod to the decommissioned airstrip next door—where Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak even crashed a plane once.
Since purchasing land from the city’s former development arm and knocking down the old Suburban Propane building, there have been plenty of obstacles, Wright recounted.
“The property was contaminated,” he said, referring to arsenic and other dangerous materials that were unearthed. “It took more than a year to clean it up.”
The owners built the 2,412-square-foot Starbucks on Mount Hermon Road first, and moved on to tackle the Hangar, before being sidelined for a year by Covid-19.
“I want it to be—and the city wants it to be—true economic development,” Wright said of the Hangar. “For it to be really successful you have to have additive development, by bringing new businesses…as opposed to just building a building and cannibalizing other tenancies.”
That’s why he went after The Penny Ice Creamery—as a way to bring in something truly fresh.
“I’m uber excited,” he said. “They’ve shared the vision.”
Davis says he’s looking forward to connecting with local growers and is putting the word out to area residents in a hunt for hyperlocal flavor ideas.
This is possible because of how they get their ice cream inventory.
“We think our take on it is pretty unique,” Davis said, explaining they do the pasteurization themselves. “What makes us different from most places is that we make our ice cream from scratch.”
They start by blending an organic base of dairy (from Clover Sonoma in Petaluma), eggs and cane sugar, before chilling it for about 48 hours. A range of flavors are mixed in at various points along the way, depending on the concoction they’re going for. The mixture is then spun and left to harden. Overall it takes about 72 hours.
“There are some folks that think we’re a little bit crazy doing it the way we’re doing it,” Davis said. “It means a lot to us to know we controlled the whole process and we can stand behind the result.”
Baker, who served as the pastry chef at Manresa in Los Gatos prior to starting the ice cream chain, says she loves the hands-on work of partnering with local suppliers. When they opened their Aptos Village location during the pandemic last year, they were able to offer a new outlet for lavender and olive farmers in the area.
In fact, she says, they already get some ingredients from Abounding Harvest Mountain Farm, just a few miles up the road from their new digs.
Baker recently brought her 6-year-old son Rory there to collect mulberries.
“This was my first batch of mulberry ice cream,” she said, describing how they laid out tarps to prepare for the harvest. “We shook the trees, and they fell out.”
Nielsen Studios co-founder Timerie Gordon has worked with The Penny Ice Creamery on interior plans since they were dreaming up their first location.
“Their business is about authenticity,” she said. “Our job is to create a space for them where that authenticity is allowed to live its best life.”
That’s being delivered right now as, for example, Santa Cruz Green Builders implements an upside-down cake motif that keeps growing in size with each shop iteration.
“They’re very different locations with very different demographics,” Gordon said, adding the concept is meant to reflect the character of Scotts Valley. “We’re trying to work to create something that feels fresh and exciting and pays homage to the history.”
Baker says they’ve already collected several old photographs taken in the community, although they haven’t decided how they’re going to display them yet. The new spot will feature more indoor and outdoor seating than any of their previous locations. Davis says he has their staff of almost 100 employees to thank for helping the business stay afloat while avoiding the rocky shoals of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I don’t feel like I can say it’s been that hard, given how hard it’s been for other people,” he said, adding he’s specifically grateful to his employees for taking health precautions to heart. “We didn’t have any confirmed positive cases amongst our staff.”
Hanging out at the construction site on Tuesday, Davis’s 11-year-old son Jack said he looks forward to stopping in after soccer and baseball games. His brother—9-year-old Calvin Davis, who likes to jump off high things at Skypark—shares the enthusiasm. He says his dad kept the news a secret even from him.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “I didn’t know until last weekend. I like to not know things, and then, ‘Surprise!’”
The shop is set to open toward the end of July or in early August.