My name is Andy, and I, along with my wife Jen own Weckerly’s Ice Cream. Jen and I began this business together back in 2012, but its conception had been taking shape for some time before that. When we met in 2005 Jen was the pastry chef at the original White Dog Café. She introduced me to local ingredients I had never encountered. Her approach was always to craft a familiar and accessible dessert no matter how unusual the ingredients, each creation allowing even the subtlest flavors to shine. It was these skills and the dedication to local farm sourcing that led us to plan our business together.
Jen grew up in Pittsburgh and as one of four children with two working parents honed her skills in the kitchen at a very early age. By the time she was seven Jen created full menus and meals for her siblings, and by the age of 10 had been put in charge of dinner. She landed in Philadelphia for school in the late nineties, but found herself drawn to the kitchen. Beginning as a prep cook and pastry apprentice, she quickly rose through the ranks to run the pastry department at the White Dog Café for over ten years. It was here that she fell in love with ice cream as a perfect palette for all flavors and nearly universal comfort food.
Before embarking on this adventure with Jen, I managed a Center City Bicycle Shop, and before that ran programs for a local youth development non-profit. Both jobs allowed me to focus management and organizational skills while connecting with people face-to-face on a daily basis. Ice cream is a great talking point and it is this conversational relationship with both customers and farmers that I value greatly.
Weckerly’s began in a West Philadelphia cafe. We worked day jobs and made ice cream in the evening. As the brand gained recognition for its quality, innovative ice cream sandwiches, and local sourcing, Weckerly’s relocated to Globe Dye Works in Philadelphia’s Frankford neighborhood.
In this old textile factory we built our “Micro-Creamery” where the ice cream goes through a long multi-day process to become a memorable flavor. Ingredients are prepared by hand and slowly heated in a vat pasteurizer. The low heat produces a safe and stable product and improves the milk’s natural flavors.
This is a long and hands-on process rarely used by small ice cream makers. For us it was important so that we could account for every ingredient, and continue to make ice cream without the use of stabilizers or flavor extracts.
In the past year we have seen our business make incredible leaps, more than doubling sales from last year. We’ve reached customers through a growing network of retailers, frequent mobile vending, and custom catering. As our business has grown we have had the opportunity to do more business with small local farms and build an incredible staff. We continue to see an increased demand for our product at retailers beyond the city limit, as well as a growing and loyal local following.
In the coming year we want to fulfill more of the requests we receive and eventually open a small storefront. To achieve this we need to purchase a larger ice cream maker and walk-in freezer storage. In our busy season we are active for 16-18 hours per day, filling our freezers by Friday, and finding them empty on Monday. It is great to see inventory move quickly, but we aim for a more sustainable cycle providing more requested product and allowing for growth.
The $5,000 requested will be used help purchase a new ice cream maker, specifically an Emery Thompson 24NW-I.O.C. Batch Freezer. This machine costs $24,900. In addition to the Kiva Zip loan we will also be using capital provided by the business and a $10,000 business grant.
Our current batch freezer is the same one we began with, and can only process 1 gallon of ice cream at a time. The new machine will be able to churn up to 6 gallons each time. This will increase our production efficiency six fold. With this improvement we can both make more ice cream and dedicate more active labor time to other tasks.
Additionally, the current machine is air cooled, meaning that it throws off a lot of hot air. In order to process a full 30 gallon batch the freezer runs for over three and a half hours often heating the kitchen to over 80 degrees. Not good for ice cream. The new batch freezer is water cooled and puts off no additional heat. We anticipate noticeable utility savings, as the equipment will run for less time, use less energy to cool, and the air conditioner in the kitchen will be more effective.
Having the ability to produce more ice cream in less time means that we will be able to spend more time creating new recipes and extending ourselves to new customers. It also means creating more variety in the daily kitchen work and further reducing the risk of burn-out.