Backstory: Sunni Sky’s Homemade Ice Cream thrives on variety, customer service and value

vbridges@newsobserver.comMay 19, 2014 

  • Advice from Scott Wilson

    • Location is vital.

    • Focus on customer service.

— After nearly 11 years of serving ice cream, Sunni Sky’s Homemade Ice Cream is preparing to add some shaved ice concoctions to its menu.

Last month, Scott Wilson, who owns the store with his wife, Stacy, found equipment on Craigslist to start making New Orleans-style snowballs and drove to South Carolina to retrieve it.

Wilson isn’t sure when he and his crew of about 24 seasonal workers will be ready to serve the snowballs.

“It could be two weeks or two months,” he said. “Until we know we can put out the best product we can put out, we are not going to open that up.”

For years, Sunni Sky’s ice cream has beckoned those driving in or near the shop on N.C. 55 in Angier.

The Wilsons opened Sunni Sky’s in July 2003. The business is named after their son, Skylar, 18, and daughter, Sunni, 21.

The shop’s flavors include the standards such as chocolate, which is the most popular, along with recipes developed by Wilson and his team over time. Those flavors include crumb cake, banana pudding and dirt cake, which has a chocolate pudding flavor. Gummy worms go on top because they freeze in the ice cream, Wilson said.

The company also carries two hot sauce laden flavors known as Cold Sweat and Exit Wound for spicy extremists.

The first year the ice cream shop was open it offered about 30 flavors.

The next year Wilson bought a new freezer and decided to rotate 12 new flavors, including a caramel praline.

“Well, the problem with ice cream is: Once you have a flavor for someone that they really like, they are upset when you get rid of it.”

Eight years later, freezers line much of the shop that now offers more than 120 flavors.

“You have 12 here, 16 here and 12 more right there,” said Wilson, 47, who lives in Fuquay-Varina. “… Sixteen on that wall, 16 on that wall … ”

Some recipes are simple, such as the caramel praline. The banana pudding required deconstructing a standard recipe and trying to figure out how to make it into ice cream.

This year’s new flavors include raspberry truffle (already a keeper), baked Alaska and French toast.

The business is open from March 1 to Dec. 1. About six years ago, Wilson added 300 square feet with a plan to sell coffee year-round, which would allow him to hold onto valued staff.

However, Angier town officials wanted him to consider adding a turn lane on N.C. 55, which Wilson said he couldn’t afford. So, he used the extra space to add more ice cream coolers.

The flavors create buzz, but it’s the price and customer service that inspire people to return, Wilson said. The ice cream starts at $1.50 for a kiddie cup, $2.50 for a single and $3 for a regular milkshake.

The shop only takes cash or check, he said, to keep the check-out process efficient.

To ensure quick service, Wilson keeps the shop well-staffed. On Mother’s Day, the shop’s busiest day of the year for two years in a row, Wilson had planned to staff the store with 19, but one got sick. There was a long line, he said, but it moved quickly.

Some may see that day’s success and think he is sitting on a gold mine. Wilson is fast to point out that they aren’t taking into consideration the slow days.

“The cold and rainy reality of ice cream,” he said.

Bridges: 919-829-8917; Twitter: @virginiabridges

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