Ice cream company gets second chance as retailer

Three years ago Tahoe Creamery founder Greg Hoch met with an attorney to finalize the closure of his struggling retail operation in Carson City.

But rather than hearing the death-knell on his dream of selling ice cream from a storefront, Hoch was hit with a golden business opportunity.

During the meeting Reno attorney Garrett Sutton asked if Hoch wanted to pass along to his two daughters a small family creamery or a bustling business.

After consulting with his wife, Hoch partnered with Sutton, Andy Black, the founder of Sparky's, and former Lake Tahoe restaurant owner Jeff Sallan to reinvigorate the company.

Hoch makes the ice cream, Sutton handles legal affairs, Black takes care of recruitment and expansion and Sallan is the accountant.

"It is sort of dream come true," says Hoch, who operated without a physical storefront for three years until the opening of a scoop shop at Sparks Galleria in Spanish Springs last month. The new location marks the first of three sites for Tahoe Creamery, which also plans on regional franchising. Company-owned locations already are set to open before Christmas at Northstar Village and the new student union at the University of Nevada, Reno.

"These guys brought such wonderful stuff to the table," Hoch says. "They have everything we need for this business to grow. It turned out to be a huge blessing for these guys to walk in. Suddenly your business starts to grow in angles you wouldn't be able to do by yourself."

Black, who'd been itching to get back in business since selling his six Sparky's locations and the Little Waldorf Saloon to Golden Gaming of Las Vegas in 2004, agrees all parties are bettered served with the new management situation.

"We saw the value and the great product that Greg makes," Black says. "A homemade, gourmet, super-premium ice cream made locally - no other company is doing that. We saw a niche in the marketplace that could be filled.

"Everyone has strengths and weaknesses," Black adds. "We helped (Greg) get a boost, get a truck and proper equipment, gave him a salary. His job is to make greatest ice cream in the world, and he is really passionate about it; that is his love. We don't know how to make ice cream, but we know how to build a business and take it to the next level."

Tahoe Creamery has a business office at 348 Mill St., but Hoch churns specialty premium ice creams with whimsical Tahoe-themed names from a site in Minden - which suits him just fine. "It's kind of nice to be in nature and look out the window and see alfalfa and cows," he says. "It's a great place to be making ice cream."

Black says eventually the creamery will move production to a flagship location somewhere in Reno. "It will be a scoop-shop storefront and production facility," Black says. "We will have tours with kids, make it fun, like Willy Wonka."

Additionally, Tahoe Creamery plans on rolling out a retail pint program. Although Hoch has been selling ice cream wholesale for several years, Black says the managers first need to invest in fully automated packing equipment for the flagship store.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment