Sundae Fun-Day –

The story below is a preview of our November/December 2022 issue. For more stories like this, subscribe today. Thanks very much!

Local ice cream parlors are expanding their locations, menu options, and ingredients for a variety of flavors and experiences.

Virginia’s Blue Ridge is really crying out for ice cream, or so it seems, with the arrival of several new companies and entrepreneurs serving up this frozen dessert over the past year.

From classic brands to dairy-free versions, the following stores are making their way into local ice cream land.

Who needs cow milk?

Quincy Randolph and Nate Sloan both had burgeoning new businesses on Main Street in the Wasena neighborhood of Roanoke. But when a shop in the neighborhood was for rent a few years ago, the entrepreneurial wheels started to turn.

Randolph, owner of Roasters Next Door Coffee Lounge, and Sloan, owner and chef of Bloom, a small plate and beverage restaurant, had both unwittingly set their eyes on the premises at 1116 Main St. And they didn’t initially think of an ice cream company. That changed when they started brainstorming together.

“We thought it would be good to have ice cream in the neighborhood,” says Randolph.

But not just any ice cream. Through her other grocery stores, “we saw how many non-dairy requests we got,” Randoph said. “Less butter on the dishes, and I’ve processed how many oat milk and almond milk lattes we’ve sold.”

That was the birth of her newest venture, Crème Fresh, a dairy-free ice cream shop. Randolph and Sloan spent about a year creating and testing their own version of dairy-free ice cream before opening the store in August 2021.

Their main goal was to create an ice cream that all customers would enjoy, regardless of whether someone prefers the dairy-free or non-dairy version. Both Randolph and Sloan had experience making traditional ice cream at other food establishments. Using oat milk and coconut milk, they analyzed different textures of ice cream to find the perfect formula.

They also allowed people to test the products before Crème Fresh was released to the public.

“We just trusted our cooking instincts,” says Randolph, who moved to Roanoke from Chicago, where he worked as a chef at an upscale restaurant. He moved to Roanoke to open Roasters Next Door with his brother.

There are seven flavors of ice cream and two sorbets on Crème Fresh’s menu, and the menu changes often, sometimes depending on the season. A chocolate flavor, like chocolate brownie or dark chocolate coffee (made from RND coffee), is always on the menu.

Randolph, who appeared at a Food Network cook-off in September, handles much of the day-to-day running of the store while Sloan works behind the scenes.

It was a challenge for both entrepreneurs to harmonize the operation of several restaurant concepts. RND opened a location in Vinton in 2021.

“We’re both learning what it’s like to be business owners with multiple brands and identities,” says Randolph. “We intend to continue to adapt and serve the people of the Wasena community and become an amazing neighborhood coffee shop first.”

bring back main street

The classic downtown high street scene of soda fountains and old-fashioned drugstores hasn’t lost its appeal, at least not for Tom and Michelle Raub.

In fact, the couple’s ice cream, candy and gift shop is based on this theme. The Raubs opened Sugar Magnolia in Roanoke last year at the Townside Festival Shopping Center on Franklin Road.

White and green striped window and door awnings adorn the store’s exterior, giving it a vintage look. Inside the large store, it’s the same aura, with green and white striped walls and a long candy and ice cream counter, along with gifts and knick-knacks strategically placed around the store.

“It’s 1950’s small-town America,” says Tom Raub, who grew up in Bluefield, West Virginia. “The general store and the soda fountain were the center of the universe for this town.”

The Raubs first opened Sugar Magnolia in downtown Blacksburg after moving there from South Carolina to be closer to Tom’s family in Bluefield. First, they opened a gift shop called the TR Collection on Main Street in Blacksburg.

But they decided to expand into the ice cream business when the Downtown Blacksburg Inc. Merchants Association conducted focus groups to ask residents about the types of retail stores they wanted downtown. Ice cream was number one on the list across all age groups, Raub says.

The Raubs initially operated both the ice cream and gift shops in Blacksburg, but merged them in 2020.

They started out selling Homestead Creamery ice cream, but after some supply difficulties during the pandemic, the Raubs switched to the Ashby’s Sterling brand. It’s a Michigan family business that makes and sells at least 70 flavors of ice cream to stores.

The Raubs brought the same Sugar Magnolia concept to Roanoke, where they now reside. They both operate businesses that have different customer bases. The Blacksburg store primarily attracts the Virginia Tech community, while the Roanoke store is from a larger market and focuses on the neighborhood.

As for ice cream, the Raubs have cooked up some interesting creations. Along with the signature cones and milkshakes, customers can order ice cream flights, ice cream nachos with waffle chips, and a grab-and-go sundae bar, a still-popular menu item from the pandemic era.

“We find the best stuff out there. We make and create the experience, that’s our expertise,” says Tom, who explained that the store is named after his favorite Grateful Dead song, Sugar Magnolia. “I’m not an experienced ice cream maker. We create the experience by bringing all of these things together into one cohesive experience.”

Stick with what works

Two new ice cream entrepreneurs have acquired a popular Roanoke store — and for now, the old-fashioned vibe of the menu and store remains the same.

Jennifer and Steven Morris are the new owners of Pop’s Ice Cream and Soda Bar, a popular convenience store with a 1936 soda fountain and classic parlor atmosphere on Memorial Avenue in Roanoke’s Grandin Village.

Pop’s former owners, Brandon Davis and Anna Robertson, who opened Pop’s in 2006, decided it was time to move on and approached the Morrises to buy the business.

The Morrises both worked in the hospitality industry, but they never owned an ice cream shop.

Still, “We thought it would be a good move for us,” says Jennifer Morris.

Jennifer and Steven Morris, who live in Grandin Village, are regular Pop customers along with their four children.

“We love the place,” says Jennifer.

The Morrises took over the business in June. For now, they stick to only serving Mayfield Dairy and Ashby’s Sterling branded ice cream, specialty grilled cheese sandwiches, soups, ice cream sodas, and other sweet treats.

The Morrises also plan to bring back Pop’s popular game nights, a rock-paper-scissors contest and more community events that have been shut down during the pandemic.

As for the four Morris children, they really enjoy spending time at Pop, especially now that their parents have taken over.

“They are blown away that Mom and Dad have an ice cream parlor!” says Jennifer.

More ice fun

Whether you’re heading downtown or prefer to be in Roanoke County, Salem or Franklin County, there’s always room for your favorite flavors. (We’re going to need a bigger bowl. Or a bigger stomach. Regardless, we’ll always eat ice cream!)

Blue Cow Ice Cream

This well-known store recently celebrated its expansion into Virginia Beach, Fredericksburg and Richmond, where diners line up for popular favorites like Goat Cheese with Blueberry Swirl, Sea Salt Brickle with Caramel Swirl, Triple Berry Crisp, Banana Puddin’ and many more. Find out more about Blue Cow Ice Cream and its platinum win for Best Ice Cream at the 2023 Reader Dining Awards in our interview with owner Carolyn Kiser on page 30 of our 2023 Dining Guide.

1115 Piedmont St SE

Roanoke, Va. 24014

(540) 400-8558

Sunday-Thursday: 12:00-21:00

Friday & Saturday: 12:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m

Katie’s Ice Cream & Chocolate

Featuring 45 flavors of ice cream, Italian ice cream, Yo Cream low-fat and non-fat yogurt, smoothies, milkshakes, and sundaes combined with tons of your favorite toppings, Katie’s Ice Cream & Chocolates has been a Roanoke County staple for years. Don’t forget to stock up on boxed chocolates next time you visit, and maybe pick up a Beanie Babies or two for the kids!

3530 Electric Rd

Roanoke, Va. 24018

(540) 776-9854

Open daily: 12pm-10pm

Local dairy

We know you know this one! Popular Homestead Creamery, Inc. gets its farm-fresh dairy from happy cows in Franklin County, thanks to a network of locally owned dairy farms, and all its ice cream is made on-site. While you can pick up your pints (and milk and more) from local grocers, be sure to stop by the Homestead Creamery Farm Market to shop for your favorites or special seasonal flavors. Build a sundae, make a milkshake, or pop it on a waffle cone to enjoy local dairy at its best.

7254 Booker T Washington Hwy

Wirtz, VA 24184

(540) 721-2045

Monday-Thursday: 11am-6pm

Friday & Saturday: 11am-7pm

Salem ice cream shop

Owner Joe McNamara and his family have been in the ice cream business for almost three decades and we hope each day only gets sweeter! This family-friendly Salem spot is an old-fashioned ice cream parlor with friendly staff and a variety of Hershey’s ice cream flavors. Put it on a cone, share a sundae, or add it to a delicious milkshake. Seasonal flavors make you want ice cream all year round!

404 W Main St

Salem, VA24153

(540) 389-2373

Monday-Saturday: 11am-10pm

Sunday: 12pm-10pm

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The story below is a preview of our November/December 2022 issue. For more stories like this, subscribe today. Thanks very much!

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