Tin Pot Creamery currently offers eight ice cream flavors at grocery stores. Courtesy Tin Pot Creamery.
By Kate Bradshaw
Tin Pot Creamery’s Peninsula scoop shops have closed following owner Becky Sunseri’s bittersweet decision to transition the popular Peninsula ice cream brand to sales in grocery stores, citing concerns about the uncertainty of retail businesses and a desire to bring her ice cream offerings to a broader audience. The local chain was stationed in Palo Alto’s Town & Country Village, Campbell’s Pruneyard Shopping Center, Los Altos’ State Street Market, which is undergoing a vendor overhaul, and in the Bay Meadows development in San Mateo. Only the Chase Center location in San Francisco remains.
"I think in the last several years, the liabilities of having brick and mortar became crystallized to me," says Sunseri, a Redwood City resident.
Since she began her journey in the ice cream industry, she's also experienced changes in her personal life, including becoming a parent to three young children.
"In order to be able to have something that works for my life and the business long term, it feels like grocery (distribution) is one of the ways we can continue to bring great ice cream to people," she says. "It's an evolution of the business."
It's a transition that has been in the works for years, she explains. Even before the pandemic hit, the landscape for food retailers was changing. Delivery apps were on the rise, and foot traffic patterns were headed in the wrong direction, she says.
So she and her team started the switch to grocery retail by debuting their eight most popular flavors in newly designed pint containers. They shuttered the brick-and-mortar scoop shops at the end of 2022.
The ice cream continues to be made at a commercial kitchen in San Carlos and is currently being offered at Whole Foods locations throughout Northern California, Bianchini's Markets and soon, Raley's and Nugget grocery stores. They'll aim to expand beyond Northern California to the Pacific Northwest and then nationally. "That would be the goal," she says, adding that they're focusing on "baby steps."
Scoops of Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream and raspberry sorbet are served on a cone from The Penny Ice Creamery. (Photo courtesy The Penny Ice Creamery)
At least two of the shuttered Tin Pot Creamery locations will be replaced by different ice cream brands: The Penny Ice Creamery will fill the Palo Alto spot, while Humphry Slocombe will move into the Campbell one. Humphry Slocombe will hold a grand opening celebration with free scoops from noon to 8 p.m. March 1.
Currently, the former Tin Pot Creamery location in Town & Country Village has its walls papered over with signage indicating that it's set to be replaced by Santa Cruz-based ice cream brand The Penny Ice Creamery, expected to open in April. The popular ice cream shop offers visitors the chance to top ice cream cones with marshmallow fluff, hand-torched to give it a s'mores flavor. Flavors range from traditional options like fresh mint chip to Verve coffee with chocolate almond praline and bourbon bacon chocolate.
An ice cream cone is topped with toasted marshmallow fluff. (Photo courtesy The Penny Ice Creamery)
The ice cream is made completely from scratch, which involves pasteurizing the dairy themselves, according to co-owner Zach Davis. This approach enables the ice cream maker to customize each recipe. For instance, while preparing the brand's mint chip ice cream, they add the mint leaves after it has been pasteurized and chilled; otherwise, if the mint leaves are added to a hot mixture, the leaves can bruise and cause bitterness. Beyond the from-scratch ice cream base, The Penny works to source materials from local farmers and is eager to connect with the Santa Clara County farming community to explore "hyper local flavors" from within the county, he says.
This will be the ice cream brand's first location outside of Santa Cruz County and their fifth overall, joining shops in Aptos, Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz.
"I know that there's a lot of people that appreciate good food, and food that has a great intention that goes into it," Davis says.
The Penny Ice Creamery, 855 El Camino Real #121, Palo Alto, 831-204-2523; Instagram: @thepennyicecreamery.
Humphry Slocombe, 1875 South Bascom Ave. Suite 370, Campbell; Instagram: @humphryslocombe.