"Ample Hills Creamery" by jpellgen (@1179_jp) is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Mar 17, 2021
Ample Hills founders to open a new shop called ‘The Social’
The ice cream brand's founders crumbled under their own expansion. Now they're building on what they've learned—and adding doughnuts
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote that “there are no second acts in American lives.” But he never said anything about second scoops.
Beloved Brooklyn ice cream brand Ample Hills had seen rapid growth—and was pursuing national expansion—when the business started melting away last year. Now, its founders have licked their wounds and, they say, have learned from their mistakes. Jackie Cuscuna and Brian Smith are ready to give it another scoop.
The couple will open a new storefront called the Social at 816 Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights later this year. (Get it? “Ice cream social?” … There will also be doughnuts and floats.) The announcement comes as welcome news to many Brooklynites, who had formed a cult-like following for the company.
“We love Brooklyn and all the spirited, diverse, beautiful people we have the opportunity to share it with. We can’t wait to gather once again at the Social,” Cuscuna tells Brooklyn Magazine. “The word ‘social’ may be the most powerful word of all, as it defines what it means to be human. It is this shared experience of interconnectedness that we all long for and crave and it’s what we hope to to foster.”
Ample Hills opened its first location in Prospect Heights in 2011, its name taken from a line in the Walt Whitman poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”: “I too lived—Brooklyn, of ample hills, was mine.” Eventually the couple expanded into more than a dozen locations, striking partnerships with Star Wars and Disney World, and receiving a call from Oprah praising their Ooey Gooey Butter Cake flavor.
But after Ample Hills reached levels of popularity that surprised Cuscuna and Smith themselves, their aggressive expansion—including opening a doomed Los Angeles outpost and building out a massive Red Hook shop and factory—resulted in mounting losses. The couple filed for bankruptcy last year, shortly before what would have been its 10 year anniversary, and sold to an Oregon company for pennies on the dollar.
Soon, though, tough times came for everyone. The couple watched as the coronavirus pandemic began ripping through the community they had served—and hurting their friends in the restaurant industry.
“I’m a New Yorker through and through” Cuscuna told Grub Street. “And seeing the hardship in the city with the shutdown, we knew we needed to stay.”
It is perhaps understandable, then, that Cuscuna and Smith want to do things differently this time around. The Social will include an emphasis on community gathering, which has been in short supply over the past year: The reopening comes just in time for what will hopefully be a less-pandemicky, more, well, social spring and summer.
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