It’s never a sad day when a new ice cream shop opens to share its creations with the community.
But the more that open, the more competition there is.
Five ice cream shops are located near 19th Street between Yale Street and North Shepherd Drive in the Heights, counting Fat Cat Creamery, 1901 N. Shepherd Dr., and SMOOSH Cookies, which is one block over at 718 W. 18th St.
Marco Silvestrini of Dolce Neve Gelato, 4721 N Main St., said when they decided to bring the shop into Houston, they intentionally stayed away from Shepherd.
“I think a gelato/ice cream shop should be an integral part of the local community and serve it in the best possible way,” Silvestrini said. “When we decided to open Dolce Neve in Houston, we looked for an area that currently didn’t have an ice cream shop. That’s why we opened on the east side of the Heights.”
Dolce Neve is the lone gelato shop in the Heights. There also is one in Garden Oaks as SweetCup Gelato & Sorbet Originale is located at 3444 B Ella Blvd.
There are more than a dozen ice cream shops in the area, and they all try to distinguish themselves from the others.
“We make everything from scratch, even our nut butters, and we use a traditional and labor-intensive technique called ‘mantecazione vertical,’ which helps us achieve a smooth texture without the need to add hydrogenated fats, emulsifier or artificial stabilizers,” Silvestrini said.
The shop focuses purely on traditional Italian flavors and innovative flavors, like goat cheese and pecan. What a customer will never find in the shop are traditional American flavors, like cookies and cream. Instead they’d find mascarpone and cocoa nibs crumble.
For the most part, Silvestrini also said he has had great interactions with other ice cream shop owners in the area, even openly talking about business ideas and market trends.
Other ice cream shops have also found ways to set their product apart from others.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, 375 W. 19th St., strives to find uniqueness in the quality of its ice cream and its service. The Ohio-based scoop shop opened late last year at the former site of Carter & Cooley Company Delicatessen.
“Our recipe is unique in the world of ice cream. It’s one I have tweaked and honed for more than two decades,” owner Jeni Britton Bauer said. “We build our ice creams completely from scratch — no synthetic flavorings, dyes or off-the-shelf mixes.”
All of Jeni’s flavors are made in partnership with the makers and producers who supply the business with ingredients.
“From family-run dairies to farmers who grow fields of berries just for us,” Bauer said. “To us, it’s all about bringing a community together to make exceptional ice cream.”
Jasmine Chida, owner of SweetCup Gelato & Sorbet Originale, said the shop’s gelato is an experience made possible through a variety of rotating flavors based off the season as well as customers’ requests.
“We innovate and pair unique flavor profiles together utilizing local ingredients and best local purveyors, while giving back to our local community,” Chida said.
A few months ago, SweetCup delivered on this by utilizing beets from Oak Forest Elementary School’s gardening program to make a new ice cream flavor.
SweetCup also uses blueberries and other seasonal ingredients from local farms in Texas, such as Moorhead’s Blueberry Farm, which is in Conroe.
“In business, competition will always be there. You can’t control what others do,” Chida said. “Competition will always keep businesses on their toes, and that results in better service and better products. In that regard, the customer ultimately benefits from that due to innovative products and better service. So healthy competition is always welcome.”
While the ice cream shops begin to stack up, they each tend to offer something different. Shops like Sweet Bribery, 250 W. 19th St., Cloud 10 Creamery, 711 Heights Blvd., and Fat Cat Creamery produce their ice creams in small batches.
For frozen yogurt, there’s Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt, 512 W. 19th St., and sweetFrog Premium Frozen Yogurt, 1214 W. 43rd St.
Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard, 2802 White Oak Dr., has Italian ice and custard. Bubble Egg, 1717 W. 34th St., offers interesting Hong Kong-style waffle cones. Over The Moon, 238 W. 19th St., is a vegan ice cream shop, and Aqua S, 506 Yale St., brings uniquely flavored soft serve.
And for the patrons who want ice cream from shops with household names, there’s Baskin-Robbins, 1354 W. 43rd St., and Marble Slab Creamery, 1737 W. 34th St.