Saturday, April 20, 2024

What’s gelati? New sweet spot Jeremiah’s ups the ante on Italian ice

Jeremiah’s Italian Ice is a locally owned franchise that opened in May at the new Harris Teeter shopping center, 3852 Carolina Beach Road, Unit 100. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — Layer one: Oreo cookie crumble. Two: cookies and cream Italian ice. Three: vanilla ice cream. 

Repeat.

It’s the makings of a popular gelati from Jeremiah’s Italian Ice — a locally owned franchise that opened in May at the new Harris Teeter shopping center, 3852 Carolina Beach Road, Unit 100. 

The 1,200-square-foot store is owned and operated by Jamey Carver and Fred Kumpel — the latter of whom runs Strickland’s Window Coverings and Blue Clay Auto in Castle Hayne. The two already are looking at Shallotte and Southport locations to launch next.

Jeremiah’s started in Florida in the mid-’90s and has grown to more than 120 stores nationwide. It serves 24 flavors of Italian ice made daily, six of which are specialty flavors. Carver said his 20 employees are making batches all day, every day, three-and-half-gallons at a time.

“I’m in love with the Biscoff cookie butter flavor currently,” he said, referring to the popular Belgian cookie. “We make Italian ice out of it and add crumble to it.”

Jeremiah’s also serves soft ice cream — permanent flavors of chocolate, vanilla or swirl. It’s different from soft serve, in that it is 10% butterfat, rather than 7% or 8%. The ice cream can be served in a cone with sprinkles or in a cup layered with cookie crumble or other select toppings.

It can be added to an Italian ice to create a gelati. The mouthfeel isn’t as odd as one may think, according to Carver. 

“My father-in-law has loved Italian ice and even he was like, ‘I don’t know how those two will do together,’” Carver said. “But it works, probably because we work with two kinds of ice: water-based Italian ice and cream-based Italian ice.”

The latter makes for a creamier texture than anticipated. Carver said people have come in asking for “the blueberry ice cream from last month.” 

“When I tell them we don’t have blueberry ice cream but only Italian ice, they don’t believe us,” he said with a laugh. “It’s just so creamy.”

Carver met Kumpel while working at Strickland’s for eight years and always considered him a mentor. He remembers telling Kumpel a few years ago he wanted to open an ice cream shop one day because the “margins are pretty good.” 

“But I was thinking 10 years down the road,” Carver said. 

Jeremiah’s Strawberry Shortcake. (Courtesy photo)

However, last year Kumpel brought up a partnership to open a Jeremiah’s, which Carver had visited before with his family in Florida. He loved the product after the first bite of the “Peanutty” — sea-salted caramel Italian ice and vanilla ice cream.

“It was delicious and it was just a different concept — different everything,” he said.  

He also was drawn to the fact the franchise had its “processes in place.” Unlike upstarting a new concept from scratch, Jeremiah’s had product flavors, footprint, marketing and the business plan set.

“We liked the idea that some of this stuff was already handled, figured out,” Carver said. 

The goal for Carver and Kumpel is to grow the footprint in the southeast with 10 or 12 stores in the upcoming five years.

“We’re looking for spaces from Myrtle Beach to New Bern,” he said, adding they’ve also been scouting Wilmington proper.

Judging by response so far, interest is there. The grand opening weekend at the Crossroads had the company churning out 1,700 sweet treats over two days. Favorite flavors have been the mango and Bahama Freeze — the latter, an Italian ice made with strawberry, lemon, mango and coconut.

Fun flavors, such as spicy hot chocolate and sour green apple, also are offered, along with sugar-free options, including cherry and tangerine. Carver said it also will begin its seasonal treats soon.

“Pumpkin pie is coming up for fall,” he said. 

The store has inside and outdoor seating for upward of 50 or more people and staff will cater events. Jeremiah’s is also selling the Italian ice only at Wilmington Sharks games through the summer and are booking with organizations for fundraising opportunities.

“So if you have a school doing a fundraiser, we will partner with you,” Carver said. “Bring business to the location on a certain night and 20% of proceeds go to the organization.”

Jeremiah’s is open seven days a week, noon to 10 p.m.; menu is here


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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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