Opening an ice cream shop in the winter wasn’t exactly Rollin Amore’s plan, but he’s been pleasantly surprised by how good business has been so far.
“I’ve had at least 30 to 40 people the first four weeks basically come back two, three, four, five times,” Amore, owner and ice cream maker at Mimi’s Handmade Ice Cream at Westpost in Pentagon City, says. “I’ve built up a loyal following in such a short period. That’s a testament to the product.”
Mimi’s Handmade Ice Cream, named after the owner’s youngest daughter, opened in December (after initially aiming for a summer opening) in a space at 1201 S. Joyce Street that’s been a bit of a revolving door for businesses. The delayed opening was due to supply chain issues, a common refrain these days.
This is Amore’s first foray into the ice cream business, after spending nearly four decades in finance.
Saying that retirement isn’t for him, he decided to turn his longtime passion of cooking into a new business. One of the biggest thrills he has is watching people enjoy what he makes.
“This is a real passion, a labor of love,” he says, speaking to ARLnow on the phone while behind the counter at the shop. “I don’t need to work, so this isn’t for money.”
Amore makes all the ice cream in-house and says he’s hyper focused on quality and flavor. That means roasting bananas for hours or grilling ubes (purple yam from Asia).
“Most everything comes from scratch. I’m not using any flavorings because they tend to be unnatural. I try to get the flavor from whatever it is I’m making. By doing that, the [ice cream] is a little better than most.”
Amore also has given himself the unfortunate job of being the taste tester, having a creamy spoonful of every single batch that comes off the line.
“That’s the hardest part of the job,” he jokes.
One of every five or six batches doesn’t make the cut and gets thrown out, he notes.
The ice cream purveyor finds inspiration everywhere. On a recent trip to a local Harris Teeter, a whiff of spearmint led him to make a whole new flavor of ice cream. Quickly creating a small batch, his spearmint ice cream sold out nearly as fast.
Mimi’s menu of flavors consists of a mix of traditional favorites (mint chocolate chip and strawberry) and more eclectic ones, like ube, beet, and a flavor that Amore calls “Szechuan Spicy Girl.”
That one has roasted peppercorns, peanuts, and it’s savory as opposed to sweet. Plus, it’s got a “kick,” he says.
Amore is hopeful that the Pentagon City location is just the first of a chain of Mimi’s across Northern Virginia. While he’s a longtime D.C. resident, he thinks the Virginia suburbs is a better market for his brand of ice cream because the flavors appeal to “children and adults alike.”
As Mimi’s Handmade Ice Cream settles into Westpost, along with a slew of other new restaurants and businesses, Amore is thrilled to be serving up scoops of ice cream he made himself to pleased customers. Even on a cold, winter’s day.
“The ice cream business is the best business in the world,” says Amore. “Because everyone is happy.”
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