Monthly Spotlight on Local Businesses & Residents
Q&A with Jackie Cuscuna, Founder/Chief Culture & Brand Officer
Ample Hills Creamery
1824 Hillhurst Ave | amplehills
Ample Hills Creamery was founded in the spring of 2011 by married couple, Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna. Novice entrepreneurs and new parents, Brian and Jackie spent their days juggling the responsibilities of running a business and raising two kids. When they opened their first scoop shop, they were terrified no one would show up...and wildly unprepared when they did. In just four days, Brian and Jackie sold out of ice cream! They hadn’t prepared to be so popular; to churn enough ice cream for the never-ending line, they had to close. While Ample Hills has grown a lot since those days, Brian and Jackie are still balancing it all: imagining new flavors, managing the day-to-day and taking care of their children. The couple has opened their first West Coast location earlier this year in Los Feliz at 1824 Hillhurst Ave.
Q. With 16 locations in the east coast (13 just in New York), can you share with us the driving force to your success? Do you think the same formula will work in Los Angeles?
Our vision is to create neighborhood scoop shops across the country where family and friends can gather and pass the time, creating connections across the table over playful, fanciful scoops of ice cream. While so many retail stores shut down and commerce moves increasingly online, we believe people are yearning for these third spaces, these community hubs.
Q. In this day and age when everyone is so health conscious, is ice cream a more risky business than it used to be or does ice cream still have its place?
We take a lot of care as to what we put in our ice cream (we make almost all our mix-ins in house from scratch). We've also been having fun creating more vegan flavors so that all folks can enjoy. And while we are no substitute for a kale salad, we are using the highest quality ingredients which makes people feel good about indulging on a special treat.
Q. What made you choose Los Feliz as the place to open your first West Coast location? Do you or any founders have ties to the neighborhood? What is your favorite part about being in the neighborhood?
Brian and I looked at a lot of spaces, a lot of neighborhoods in Los Angeles until we felt like we'd found the perfect home in Los Feliz. Probably because our shop here is literally in a home. And the added history of the house itself having been the offices of such a beloved pediatrician-Dr. Fleiss for so many years was also truly wonderful. We spent a lot of time walking around the neighborhood and falling in love with many other mom and pop shops, the movie theater, the bookstore and Griffith Park. Los Feliz really feels like the Brooklyn of LA to us.
Q. Each of your flavors tells a story, and each of your locations has a shop-specific flavor. What is Los Feliz's and what is its inspiration?
We love telling stories with our ice cream and we love honoring the neighborhood/community of each location. Beneath Los Estrellas is our Los Feliz shop specific flavor. It's an Horchata ice cream with swirls of Dulche de Leche and white chocolate pearls. Los Feliz sits at the base of The Griffith Observatory; one of the most magical spots in Los Angeles where you can view the stars and learn about the wonders of the galaxies above. To honor the Spanish/Mexican origins of the neighborhood we used the Spanish word for stars- Estrellas. The Dulce de Leche swirl represents the galaxies and the white chocolate pearls represent the stars both physical and in reference to the Hollywood stars. It's one of our most magical and favorite shop specific flavors.
Q. Most ice cream shops, even the good ones, can be formulaic, but you have a unique business model. You host parties and events, ice cream socials, ice cream classes, and educational field trips. You are as much a bakery as a creamery, with almost all of your mix-ins made in house, by hand and from scratch. And you also made ice cream history as the first to pasteurize on-site in New York City, making you a registered dairy plant. What drove you to expand Ample Hill's offering beyond your hand-churned ice cream?
Our experiential approach comes from my background as a teacher at an experiential learning school where I believe the richest experiences are those involving learning by doing, seeing and experiencing. We always wanted to bring people into our ice cream making process. By making everything on site and in view of the public it allows people to see how their beloved flavors are created. We believe the experience of that process makes ice cream eating that much more enjoyable. We worked with a company to custom design an ice cream churning bicycle so kids and kids at heart could pedal and churn their own custom flavor. For that reason our parties are even more fun and communal. The same goes for our ice cream socials and our very thorough ice cream classes where people get to learn how to make ice cream from start to finish and churn a flavor on a hand cranked ice cream maker.
Q. Did you say ICE CREAM CAKE?
We make custom ice cream cakes that start with a layer of brownie or Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, one flavor ice cream, hot fudge, another layer of ice cream, whipped cream topping and sprinkles, cookies or other fun toppings.