After nearly four years of taking it to the streets to sling handmade ice-cream sandwiches out of a pair of hand-built, solar-powered carts and a vintage truck (aptly named “Sunny”), the Asheville-based Sunshine Sammies has opened its first brick-and-mortar storefront and production kitchen at 99 S. Lexington Ave.
It’s a major turning point for the Sunshine Sammies brand, as owner Susie Pearson targets a larger audience for her unique treats and ramps up production. “We’re superexcited about the new space,” she reports. “It’s so nice to have everything here. We park our truck here, we have our carts here; it’s our home base now. And we’re doing a lot of retail — we’re in 100 Ingles stores — so we do all our wholesale production and our smaller-batch stuff for the truck and the shop here, too.”
The 2,000-square-foot facility enables Sunshine Sammies to transcend the limitations of a mobile business, ultimately creating a richer and more varied experience for customers.
“The storefront lets us do more with the menu,” Pearson explains. “We would always preassemble the ice-cream sandwiches and bag them, so we could easily hand them out on the streets. From the store, we’ll be hand-scooping them to order, so people can choose from a menu board. They can also build their own by adding toppings, so it lets them participate more, and they see us make it right there in front of them.”
But that doesn’t mean the mobile business is being phased out, stresses Pearson. “It’ll pretty much be operating as usual. We’ll still be doing local festivals with the truck; we’ll do a lot of catering events and weddings. We definitely still plan on having the carts out this summer, and we’ll just kind of go from there.”
Beginning with a single homemade cart, she notes, was “an affordable way to start the business on a shoestring budget. Adding on another cart and then the truck allowed us to keep the seasonality of the business because summertime is obviously our main time.”
But that won’t be the case with the new shop, says Pearson. “The descriptors we’re using for the shop are ‘artisan bake shop’ and ‘creamery.’ We’re definitely focused on the baked goods just as much as the ice cream. We’re known for our ice-cream sandwiches and we’ll keep expanding on those, but we have a lot of plans for things we’ll continue to add throughout the summer and focus on more in the winter. We’ll be making pies and s’mores — we won’t be opening with them, but they’ll be something we add in the future. We’ll be making the marshmallows and graham crackers in-house. We’ll see what the winter brings, but we’ll be planning on good, cold-weather options for people.”
Menu highlights include local blueberry-and-basil ice cream on soft snickerdoodle cookies; local Riverbend malt paired with Tahitian vanilla beans on chewy pretzel cookies; and house-made cookie dough folded into vanilla bean ice cream on soft, chewy chocolate chip cookies.
Pearson’s also planning a scratch-made waffle taco with choice of ice cream. Expect toppings such as Vortex doughnut crumbs, Poppy salted caramel popcorn, pecan and cocoa nib brittle, and house-made pie crust crumbles.
Floats will also be on offer, including a “cold brew a la mode” featuring PennyCup Coffee Co. cold brew with a scoop of ice cream.
Coffee will be a mainstay at the shop year-round. “As the weather turns, we’ll focus more on hot coffee drinks. We’re not doing espresso drinks to start out; that may be something we add in the future,” Pearson says.
Given the shop’s prime location — next door to Bhramari Brewing Co., around the corner from Wicked Weed and just a short walk from other breweries — Pearson is also thinking of incorporating beer into her flavorings. “We’re working on getting our alcohol permitting so we can make beer ice creams,” she says. “Not alcoholic ice creams: just for flavoring. We definitely plan on working with some of the breweries to create some beer flavors. I don’t think we really plan on serving beer by the bottle or on draft or anything. We’re surrounded by breweries, and there’s so much beer to be had in this area. It’s more just to use as an ingredient.”
Sunshine Sammies is open Thursday, Sunday and Monday from noon-10 p.m., and noon-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It’s closed Tuesday and Wednesday to focus on production.