The Ice Cream Biz

WaPo's small business blogger Sharon McLoone recently stopped by Moorenko's in McLean, "a sunny, brightly colored parlor that makes ultra premium ice cream two tubs at a time."

The proprietor and sole full-time employee, Susan Soorenko, will celebrate the business's five-year anniversary next month. (Soorenko also operates a parlor in Silver Spring).

Susan Soorenko at her McLean, Va., ice cream cafe. (Sharon McLoone)

Here's an excerpt from Sharon's online report:

When Soorenko first opened the store, she thought she'd be able to continue her 25-year career as a fitness instructor and operator of the community's Jazzercise franchise. She was wrong.

"It took me a long time to recognize that I thought I had just opened an ice cream store, but really I owned an ice cream company," she said.

Besides the store, Moorenko's ice cream is served in 50 of the finest restaurants across the region. And while ice cream must have at least 10 percent milkfat to be legally called "ice cream," ultra premium must have over 16 percent milkfat in it. Moorenko's has at least 17 percent.

"Someone once explained to me that ice cream is like hot dogs, it's really about the quality of the ingredients you put in it," she said.

Soorenko switched her focus from exercise to ice cream after "significant life changes." While on vacation with her sons out West, she fell in love with a unique ice cream that she wanted to sell on the East Coast. That plan fell apart for a variety of reasons, including the high cost of transporting it across the United States.

She attended a week-long course at Ice Cream University where she learned how to use equipment, choose flavors and most importantly make ice cream. She also studied ice cream production in Europe which has influenced her business. She currently imports many of her flavorings from Italy.

At Moorenko's, flavors include old standbys with a twist like bittersweet chocolate, Italian flavors like Lauretta (cherry vanilla) and seasonal tastes like cranberry walnut, fresh ginger and blood-orange sorbet.

Although Soorenko preferred to keep her restaurant clients under wraps for competitive reasons, her frozen treats are served at dining establishments in Old Town Alexandria, Georgetown, Vienna, Upper Connecticut Ave., Dupont Circle and as far as Culpeper, Va., and Baltimore.

She also makes ice cream for Walter Scheib, the White House executive chef from 1994 to 2005, who now runs an event services and consulting firm. "If he is cooking a dinner for 600 in Connecticut, we ship to Connecticut," she said. That liaison taught her how to ship ice cream overnight.

Moorenko's pints also are sold through six Whole Foods grocery stores and four My Organic Markets in the metro area. The dairy products are growth-hormone free and come from a farm in Virginia.

By Dan Beyers  |  October 17, 2007; 12:29 PM ET
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