After two decades on the Twin Cities ice cream scene, one venerable shop is calling it quits.
Izzy’s Ice Cream is permanently closing its first cafe, at 2034 Marshall Av. in St. Paul.
“Like many of our colleagues in the food service business, we’re down to 10% of revenue right now,” said Izzy’s co-owner Jeff Sommers. “The lease was coming up, and we just made the decision that this was a time where we needed to pull ourselves together into a tighter operation and see if we can get through this and come out on the other side a better company.”
Both the St. Paul shop and the newer Minneapolis location, at 1100 2nd St. S., had been dark since March 17, in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The Minneapolis store, neighboring Gold Medal Park, is expected to reopen May 4 for delivery only, and will expand its services when able.
But the typical ice cream shop experience poses a challenge for the business, even after it is allowed to open back up. Both Izzy’s locations drew long lines in the summer months, with many customers lingering at the ice cream counter to sample different flavors.
“At the heart of an ice cream shop is where people meet each other,” Sommers said. Social distancing will fundamentally change that. He’s planning to build a lobby and pickup area at the Minneapolis shop, separate from where staff scoop the ice cream. How will customers sample flavors? “We’re working on it,” Sommers said.
He said he hopes another ice cream shop will come in to take the place of the St. Paul Izzy’s. He wants to sell the equipment in place.
“We’re really optimistic that somebody will be interested in it and be there for our neighborhood,” he said.
Established in July 2000 in the Merriam Park neighborhood where co-founders Jeff and Lara Sommers lived, Izzy’s became known for its signature “Izzy Scoop,” a tiny ¾-ounce scoop that lets customers add an extra flavor to their order. The bonus Izzy Scoop was so unusual that the company trademarked it.
In 2008, the brand made its way to the Minnesota State Fair, coming up with a new fair-themed flavor every summer.
In 2013, Izzy’s opened a new retail shop and commercial kitchen in Minneapolis, built from the ground up.
Staffers at both shops hand-scooped pints for sale at local grocery stores until last summer, when the company teamed up with a Wisconsin-based food manufacturer in an effort to expand its reach to supermarkets throughout the region.
But St. Paul was always its first home.
“We were made by St. Paul,” Sommers said. ”It’s in our blood.”