Two women known as “Aunt Mary” and “Aunt Violet” were among the first customers at 3 p.m. April 1 to mark the seasonal opening of Heavenly Creamery at State and Sandusky Streets in Conneaut.
Relatives of Heavenly Creamery owners Joe and Christina Ericksen, the two parked themselves at a table near one of the stained glass windows of the former church, and, excited and happy, planned to sit the rest of the afternoon just to watch the people.
The lines the Ericksens hoped would stretched out the door and all the way to State Street never materialized, said Joe Ericksen, but business was steady until about 7:30 p.m., when suddenly a line snaked through the ice cream shop.
Things remained busy until the shop closed at 9 p.m.
“We’re always busiest from about 7:30 until 9,” said Ericksen, a full-time Jefferson policeman. “But everyone was happy. They said they had waited all winter for the store to reopen.”
Those who waited all winter came on Saturday from as far away as Erie, Pa., and Youngstown.
“We have quite a large following from Erie,” said Joe’s mother, Barb, one of several family members who keep the shop running while her son and daughter-in-law work their day jobs.
There is never a shortage of new ice cream flavors at Heavenly Creamery. New this year are Cookie Monster (mint with chocolate chip cookie dough); Snickerdoodle; Key Lime cheesecake; and Fireball, made from crushed atomic fireball candies.
“It’s a good winter flavor. There’s a hot kick to it,” Barb Ericksen said.
The new flavors bring to about 139 the total that Joe and Christine make in the shop’s basement. Due to limited space, all 139 are not available every day.
“But we always have chocolate, strawberry, cookies and cream, vanilla and butter pecan,” Joe said. “Butter pecan is the most asked-for flavor, but banana cream pie is our top seller.”
Always tweaking and coming up with new flavors, the Ericksens welcome new flavor suggestions. Recent suggestions include pecan pie and chocolate truffle.
Also new for Heavenly Creamery’s third season are dairy-free ice creams in blackberry and blueberry, with coconut milk; almond butter, using almond milk; banana cream pie and coconut banana, which contain almond and coconut milk.
Ericksen said the venture into dairy-free ice cream has not gone entirely smoothly.
“We’ve had to buy a new freezer because our regular freezer doesn’t get any warmer than -20 degrees, and the non-dairy ice cream out of the freezer is too hard to eat,” he explained.
Gone from Heavenly Creamery’s 2017 menu are smoothies.
“They just weren’t successful,” Ericksen said. “The machine was loud and they were time-consuming to make. We realized that it wasn’t the business we wanted to be into.”
With Easter approaching, ice cream lovers looking for something different might find it in Heavenly Creamery’s Ice Cream Peeps.
Shaped like marshmallow Peeps, the ice cream comes in Blue Moon, Banana, Vanilla, Jolly Rancher, and Cotton Candy. Peeps sell for six for $5, a dozen for $9, or $4.50 for two Peeps and a large egg. Ice cream eggs are $3 apiece.
“We tried it last year and sold them off Facebook,” said Ericksen, since Easter last year occurred in late March, before Heavenly Creamery’s snowy April 1, 2016, opening.
Heavenly Creamery also plans to raffle a wooden Easter basket, made by Barb Ericksen and filled with coupons, a shirt, color-changing bowls, and more.
Anyone who makes a purchase at Heavenly Creamery is automatically entered into the April 15 drawing,Heavenly Creamery business slowed a bit on Sunday, and much more on Monday, a rainy but mild day. Ericksen says that until school lets out, weekdays are always slow.
Still, Heavenly Creamery customers are glad that the shop has reopened.
“We love coming here,” said Tina Greenfield, of Conneaut, who came in Monday afternoon with her 11-year-old son, Landen. “But I have to admit that we almost didn’t come because I didn’t want to get out of the car in the rain.”