Business Notepad

Ice cream and music under one roof

Ice cream is not just food — it’s an experience. Ice cream eaters have loyalties to flavors and brands that go far beyond their feelings for ordinary foods. And for many, the association of ice cream with good times runs deep. Just ask people what their favorite ice cream flavors are and watch their faces light up.

It’s that kind of reaction that inspired Jeff Japp, Lael Gray and Susanne Loar to open Sweet Heaven Ice Cream & Music Cafe (35B Montford Ave.) in Asheville earlier this month.

“The truth is,” explains Gray, “that after [Sept. 11], we decided it was time to put our energies towards creating something truly meaningful and inspiring. Ice cream and music make people really happy, and it just seemed so logical to put them together.”

Sweet Heaven’s mission, says Gray, is to make the most delicious super-premium ice cream and other frozen desserts, and to serve them in an exceptionally fun environment. “Our goal is to have a place where adults and children can play,” she explains.

With its cobalt-blue floor, hand-painted chairs, purple and yellow tables, and mostly primary-colored decor, the cafe is definitely all about “fun.” Red shelves house toys, puzzles and magazines. Brightly colored quilts (made by children at Isaac Dickson Elementary School) hang from the walls. Even the signs are playful (“Free Sprinkles, Free Advice,” says one.)

As parents themselves, explains Japp, “we kind of designed the place with us in mind. People really feel comfortable bringing their kids here. [The kids] go right to the chalk-board, start playing with the toys. Parents are free to go get the ice cream or their coffee. People feel like it’s a kid-safe environment which is what we wanted.”

And then there’s the ice cream (all made on-site), ranging from simple flavors such as Plain Ol’ Chocolate and Granny’s Best Vanilla to more inspired concoctions: Chocolate Sin (chocolate ice cream, chocolate chips, chocolate crunchies, homemade brownies and swirls of Ghirardelli chocolate), American Pie (vanilla and cinnamon ice cream with pieces of homemade apple pie), and the Elvis-inspired Memphis (banana ice cream, chocolate chips, broken graham crackers and swirls of peanut butter and honey.)

Customers will also find soy ice cream (in strawberry and chocolate flavors the day I visited); sorbets made from seasonal fruit; and more unusual flavors such as sweet ginger, tiramisu and pistachio. Milkshakes, floats, sundaes, take-home pints, and ice-cream cakes and pies round out the list of goodies. The venue is also looking into the possibility of making 100-percent organic ice-cream.

There’s plenty to drink for both grown-ups and kids: locally-roasted organic coffees (all except for the decaf espresso), herbal and English teas, chai, hot chocolate, milk, lemonade, Italian and regular sodas, juice and bottled water.

As the cafe’s name implies, entertainment is also on the menu: live music on Friday and Saturday evenings, and kid-oriented entertainment (such as puppetry, storytelling or music) on Sunday afternoons. Eventually, says Japp, open-mike or open-drumming sessions will be added on Wednesdays.

The line-up for the weekend of June 28-30 features percussive folk artist Julie Lloyd on Friday, June 28; blues guitarist Philip Abernethy on Saturday, June 29; and Susan Ward with the Imagination Station Puppet Company on Sunday afternoon, June 30. Plans for the future, says Japp, include catered birthday packages as well as offering wholesale ice cream (possibly even in customized flavors) to local restaurants.

Sweet Heaven’s hours are noon-10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday (closed on Tuesday); and noon-11 p.m., Friday and Saturday. For more information, call 259-9848.

Be a biker for a day

The road is calling you. You long to wrap your legs around a Harley, to feel the wind in your hair, the power of the throttle beneath your hand, to wend your way through the mountains — to be ridin’ high and livin’ free, as the saying goes.

So what’s stopping you? Well … truth is, you don’t actually own a motorcycle.

No problem. Earlier this month, Anita and Jeff Allen opened Freebird Motorcycle Rentals (Forks of Ivy Plaza, 901-4 Old Mars Hill Highway) in Weaverville, an agency specializing in renting Harley Davidsons to WNC residents and visitors.

The idea for the business came out of the Allen’s own frustration. Explains Anita, “Basically, my husband and I looked for a motorcycle to rent a couple of years ago, and we couldn’t find one anywhere. … We just felt like there was a market for that, especially with the good riding that there is around here.”

There are many good reasons to rent a motorcycle, says Anita: attending rallies in and out of state; trying out a motorcycle before purchasing one; and touring our own mountain roads, as well as destinations further afield.

While visitors to the area may rent motorcycles to tour such locations as the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway, the Smoky Mountain National Park and the Dragon (a world-renowned stretch of road between Robbinsville and Tennessee), the Allens will be glad to provide directions to lesser-known places that offer a great ride and fantastic scenery, such as Big Laurel or Dogget Mountain.

The cost of a 24-hour rental is $99 for a Sportster Hugger and $145 each for a Wide Glide, Fat Boy, Heritage Softail Classic and Electra Glide. Special three-day and weekly rates are also available. “The longer you rent it, the cheaper it is,” says Anita.

Reservations can be made for a down payment of $45 per day of rental, and customers must show that they have a motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license. In the future, Freebird plans to offer riding apparel and other motorcycle-related goods.

Freebird’s hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Saturday (closed on Tuesday); and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 645-0042.

New downtown grocery seeks public input

What would your ideal neighborhood grocery store have on its shelves? Fresh, organic produce? Gourmet foods such as Gorgonzola cheese, mango chutney and almond biscotti? Prepared lunches to grab on the run? Food items tailored towards your particular food allergens: wheat-free, diary-free or egg-free? Wine and beer? Party food, such as chips and dip?

Whatever your needs or desires, the Grove Corner Market — scheduled to open this September in the newly renovated Grove Arcade Public Market in downtown Asheville — wants to know. Local owners/operators Ron Ainspan and Rosanne Kiely invite the public to contribute to the development and planning of the store by completing a customer survey, available on-line (http://wncmarket.com/downtowngrocery) and for pick-up at the Asheville City Development office (29 Haywood St.)

The Grove Corner Market will feature 3,500 square feet of retail space; a 700 square-foot windowed balcony for dining, health and wellness classes and business meetings; and a grab-and-go deli and sidewalk cafe tables.

For more information, contact Kiely at 281-2511 or grovecornermarket@main.nc.us.

Local restaurant now offers catering services

Savoy Cucina (641 Merrimon Ave.) recently entered the catering business, with what owner Eric Scheffer calls “a revolutionary approach.”

“Most of us have been to events around town, and have been served the same food over and over again,” notes Scheffer. “We noticed this and wanted to do something with more emphasis on individuality. Our catering menus directly reflect the personalities of our clients. Each is different and unique.”

While the restaurant itself has a definite Italian flair, Chef Peter Affatato can offer clients a diverse sampling of foods — from Argentinean to Thai, from Moroccan to sushi — for their catered events. Affatato has years of catering experience, and can help clients who have a hard time determining what and how much to prepare for a group of guests.

Savoy Catering, which Scheffer calls “local catering with big-city flair,” is available for company events, weddings, private dinner parties and other celebrations ranging from 10 to 1,000 guests. Every detail is covered, including food and wine selection, presentation, ambiance, set-up and clean up. Says Scheffer, “We invite [clients] to create an event to be remembered that showcases [their] individuality and style.”

Looking for other ways to stand out, Savoy has also integrated their concept wine dinners into the catering department. Armed with Savoy’s nationally recognized wine list (Savoy was a recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence in both 2001 and 2002), clients can host their own wine tastings — showcasing a theme or wine region.

“Many of Savoy’s clientele are wine lovers,” says Scheffer. “For these wine dinners, we pair Peter’s dishes with some beautiful wines that cover a range of price points. If the client wants to take the tasting a step further, we will provide information about each wine, its production and why it was chosen for the pairing. These personal wine tastings are a big hit with guests and are a lot of fun for anyone who is interested in wine.”

Additionally, Savoy has just reopened for lunch (Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.), offering a variety of dishes: gourmet pizzas, fresh salads, pasta, soup-and-sandwich of the day, and an assortment of desserts. Lunch can be packaged for take-out; delivery is available within a five-mile radius for orders of eight people or more ($50 minimum.) Family-style hot and cold food trays are also offered, and will feed between eight and 10 people.

Savoy is open for dinner Monday through Sunday, 5:30 p.m.-whenever. For more information, call 253-1077.

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