Owner hopes College Hill Creamery and its ice cream become a neighborhood fixture

08/02/2013 7:23 AM

08/02/2013 7:24 AM

When Caleb and Ashley Shannon relocated to Wichita a year ago, they settled in the College Hill area and noticed something they thought was strange.

They could find several nearby locally owned doughnut shops, but when they wanted to take visiting relatives out for ice cream, they could find only big chains – and none particularly nearby.

Almost right away, Caleb Shannon – who moved to Wichita to manage the west Sam’s Club store – tapped his inner entrepreneur. (Something that’s way too easy for him to do, his wife said with a laugh. And a good-natured eye roll.)

Caleb Shannon immediately started churning up plans for a College Hill ice cream shop, and he knew exactly where he wanted to put it. Clifton Square would be perfect, he thought, but the building he thought would work best was occupied by a physical therapy office.

Not long after, he drove past the building and noticed a “For Rent” sign.

“I slowly convinced her over a couple of months that this is something we should try,” he said of his wife.

In June, the couple opened College Hill Creamery at 3700 E. Douglas. Their building is one of the most visible from Douglas in the quaint village of businesses built inside former houses.

The cozy little shop, painted a cheery sky blue and flooded with natural light, serves a wide variety of ice cream in flavors such as cotton candy, red velvet cake, chocolate peanut butter and more.

Though Caleb’s original vision – and eventual plan – is to make his own ice cream, for now the couple is using the Blue Bell brand. The Texas-based company, which also sells ice cream in grocery stores, offers ice cream in about 40 flavors that aren’t available to the public. So far, the most popular flavors, the Shannons said, are Krazy Kookie Dough (made with sugar cookie dough in cake batter-flavored ice cream), mocha almond fudge and Southern blackberry cobbler.

The Shannons, transplants from Minnesota, said that despite the wintry climate there, locally owned ice cream shops are everywhere, and each offers something unique. The pair loved ice cream stores that would squeeze treats such as malt balls or gumballs in the bottoms of the cones to serve as a plug that would prevent drips. They decided to use malt balls in their shop and get them in four different flavors – dark chocolate, milk chocolate, peanut butter and everything – from Wichita’s Nifty Nut House.

Because both hold full-time jobs – Caleb at Sam’s Club and Ashley as a 10th-grade English teacher at Trinity Academy – the two carefully selected a manager who would run the business for them. Treanne Synstelien relocated from Minnesota to take the job, and after just a couple of months, she’s already developed relationships with the neighborhood regulars, the Shannons said.

So far, the shop is busiest on Friday nights, followed closely by Saturdays. People start filling the shop around 7 p.m. Many customers stop by after dinner at Ziggy’s Pizza, the Clifton Square pizzeria visible from College Hill Creamery’s side window. Several other people notice Ziggy’s while indulging in ice cream.

The two businesses have been benefiting each other, and that’s exactly what Caleb said he’d hoped for. He’s even planning a Ziggy’s-themed ice cream treat and hopes to partner with other local bakers and businesses to create ice cream flavors. He said he hopes to start making his own ice cream within the next six months, after he sees how the winter treats the store. He imagines adding his own zany flavors, he said, such as cayenne pepper, salted caramel and green tea.

The Shannons also hope to add coffee to the menu soon, and their ultimate goal is to open a second location somewhere else in Wichita.

College Hill Creamery offers free toppings, including peanuts, sprinkles, whipped cream, cherries and chocolate. And it also has nondairy and no-sugar-added options.

Soft drinks, chips and items such as root beer floats and ice cream sandwiches also are available. Single dip cones cost $2.75. A double is $3.75 and a triple is $4.75. Kiddie cones are $1.50.

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