Tacoma’s favorite homegrown ice cream shop is expanding – again
Ice Cream Social is on the move, and it’s expanding.
The Tacoma-based 8-year-old ice cream company founded by Layla Isaac operates two scoop shops.
Isaac opened her first retail store in Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue neighborhood in 2014, which is steps away from the farmers market where she previously operated. She started her locally grown ice cream empire as a market vendor in 2012.
In 2017, she expanded again to Point Ruston with a scoop shop with a slightly larger footprint than the Sixth Avenue shop.
And now she’s expanding again, but it’ll be a bit of a wait before diners will be able to visit her new shops.
Those two shops will be in Proctor and the Hilltop neighborhoods. Here’s what’s happening. UPDATE 2021: Both new shops in the Hilltop and Proctor neighborhoods are now open. Read more here.
THE HILLTOP SHOP
For years, Isaac has manufactured her ice cream at a private commercial kitchen in downtown Tacoma at the historic Old Post Office Building (now called Court House Square).
“We’ve really outgrown the space. It wasn’t efficiently laid out,” Isaac explained. “The other space was small and we’d continually add space, but it wasn’t enough.”
In the Hilltop neighborhood, she found a much larger commercial space that will now be home to her ice cream production.
That space is at 1110 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. It’s a 2,800 square-feet space right next door to the Red Elm Cafe and two doors down from Zodiac Supper Club. This is where I point out that all three of those next-door businesses are women owned – Dana Claar Verellen opened Zodiac Supper Club in 2017 with husband Dave and Red Elm Cafe was opened in 2017 by sisters Sarah Joslyn, Adina Joslyn and Jennifer Richardson.
Isaac first started working on the space two years ago and thought she’d have it open by now. They moved in this month. “I’m glad to be here now, but it would have been better to be here in March,” she noted. She’s expanded with new equipment, and there’s enough space for a retail section, which she said will come later.
“Our retail section isn’t open yet. It probably won’t open until next spring, maybe March. It doesn’t make sense to make an ice cream shop in the winter, even an established one,” she said.
While that location won’t be open to the public just yet, diners can pick up pints or grab a scoop at her Point Ruston and Sixth Avenue locations – for now. The Sixth Avenue location has a shelf life. She’s moving that location to Proctor.
MOVING TO THE PROCTOR NEIGHBORHOOD
The Sixth Avenue location no longer yields the traffic Isaac once enjoyed at her perch in the middle of a bustling nightlife zone with The Red Hot, La Ca Bar, Engine House No. 9, Asado, Crown Bar, Jazzbones, Essence Lounge, The West End, Primo Grill, Dirty Oscar’s Annex, Half Pint Pizza and a half dozen other great nighttime destinations for adults.
And that, in itself, can be problematic for a business geared toward family-friendly outings. An ice cream shop in the middle of a neighborhood of bars, nightclubs and other evening destinations doesn’t always have traffic at the right time of day for an ice cream shop.
And that’s one reason why Isaac is moving her Sixth Ave shop to the Proctor neighborhood.
“My business partner and I felt this would be a good business decision, moving to a more family friendly area,” she said. That business partner is Jamie Van De Wege, who has partnered with Isaac since the Sixth Avenue location opened.
They’ll move into the former Culpepper Books spot at 2521 N. Proctor St., which is right next door to Europa Bistro and amidst a neighborhood bustling with family-friendly eating destinations.
Earlier this year, I spotted a business license application for Frankie & Jo’s, a Seattle-based ice cream shop focused on plant-based frozen desserts. The address on the application was 2521 N. Proctor St., the same space where Ice Cream Social will open.
What gives? Well, the pandemic is what happened and the Seattle business shelved its plans to expand south. “Unfortunately, we have cancelled our expansion into Tacoma due to Covid. At this time, we do not have plans in the future to continue this project,” said Natalie VanHoever, marketing manager for Frankie & Jo’s.
While I would have loved a plant-based dessert company open here, I’m so much more appreciative about a locally grown business founded in the 253 expanding in a neighborhood full of locally grown restaurants – Europa, Pomodoro, Manny’s Place, Waffle Stop, East West Cafe, Terry’s Office Tavern, the Rosewood and so many other cafes and restaurants.
“We still have to build it out. It was a book store before. It was not built to serve food. There’s a good amount of work to do, but I’m willing to do it. In the long run, it will be a good decision for us. It’ll space out our existing shops, too,” she said.
She doesn’t have a timeline for the buildout because of how complicated construction is at the moment because of a trickle-down effect from current restrictions that has created problems for everything from sourcing building supplies to how construction workers have to operate.
So stay tuned on the opening of the Proctor store.
Until then, you can get your ice cream fix at the Sixth Avenue Shop or Point Ruston.
Isaac notes that there are no changes happening at the Point Ruston store, which has become her busiest store at the moment. It’s not going anywhere.
UPDATE 2021: Both new shops in the Hilltop and Proctor neighborhoods are now open. Read more here.
ICE CREAM SOCIAL
Sixth Avenue: 2914 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-327-1660
Point Ruston: 5107 Main St. Ruston; 253-507-5448
Coming to Proctor at: 2521 N. Proctor St., Tacoma
Coming to the Hilltop at: 1110 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma
GILMAN HOUSE IS OPEN FOR BRUNCH
Have you heard about Tacoma’s best new destination for brunch? Gilman House is now open for dinner service on Fridays and Saturdays and also serves Sunday brunch. You’re missing out on life if you don’t try their fabulous biscuits. Read my story here for more details.