Working on a time schedule geared to the upcoming warm-weather months, Rose Rock Microcreamery was in good shape as far as having plenty of product on hand when COVID-19 restrictions went into place. The problem was how to sell it.
Rose Rock closed for a couple of weeks after St. Patrick’s Day while owners Jason Decker and chef James Nelson figured out how to go forward. Summer, of course, is its busiest season, but it needs to build momentum in the spring, too.
“James and I spent a significant amount of money to acquire all of the products we needed,” Decker said recently. “At one point, I looked at the bank account, and we had $1,000 left. I told James I didn’t think we were going to make it.”
Nelson then came up with a novel idea for an ice cream store: delivery.
“We didn’t know how it would go, but we got 100 orders the first day,” Decker said.
Nelson also had to make decisions about condensing the menu and helping figure out the logistics.
“Ice cream melts, so it was a challenge to figure the number of deliveries and radius of the deliveries,” Nelson said. “I also had to determine what to put on the menu. We figured we had to stick with mostly recognizable flavors. Even if people come to the store, we can’t give out samples at this time.”
Decker said last year, he purchased a compressor-driven ice chest for emergencies at the store, and it has become a valuable asset.
“We’ve done a pretty good job with our delivery schedules, and I have my wife’s car to make the longer deliveries to places like Broken Arrow and Sapulpa,” Decker said. “People are buying the ice cream for birthday parties and special occasions and just to stock up.”
Although Rose Rock is allowing customers in the store on the second floor of The Boxyard downtown beginning this week under strict guidelines, it still will continue delivery service as long as it is viable.
“We’ve been able to bring our staff back,” Decker said. “We take everyone’s temperature when they report to work, we wear masks and gloves, we have a new no-contact point of sale system, we put Plexiglas over the order counter, and we bring the orders out in a sack and put them on a table for the customers to pick up. And we have hand sanitizer for customers. They can pick up their ice cream and go out on the patio and enjoy it.”
Cash also is not being accepted, and customers have the option of paying online.
In addition to the 18 flavors, of which about half are gluten-free, offered daily, Nelson developed a line of ice cream sandwiches over the winter, and they have proved to be a popular addition. They also are available in different flavors and are cream and gluten-free.
“We have what we call survival packs,” Nelson said. “You can get three pints of ice cream with sprinkles or Oreo toppings and six sugar cones or two pints of ice cream and five ice cream sandwiches for $30 each. We also have ice cream sandwich packs of five for $15.”
Rose Rock, which opened on St. Valentine’s Day in 2017, specializes in small-batch, super-premium (14% to 16% milk fat), all-natural ice cream in a variety of flavors. This week’s lineup included such choices as Vietnamese coffee, Madagascar vanilla, cookies and cream, salted caramel, root beer float and peaches and cream.
Vegan flavors included chocolate, cookies and cream, pineapple whip, hibiscus and cream, watermelon sorbet and raspberry sorbet.
Prices range from $2.75 to $7, depending on size and add-ons. The popular affogato (ice cream with a shot of espresso) is $4 for one scoop and $5 for two.
Decker, an engineer by trade, got interested in ice cream a few years ago and took the Penn State University ice cream course. Nelson is a trained chef. He’s a graduate of Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island.
One concession Rose Rock had to make was to switch from specialty spoons to plastic ones in individual wrappers.
“They are crappy spoons,” Decker said. “We are sorry about that, but we do it out of love for our customers. You might want to bring your own spoons.”