Alaska flavors fuel Wild Scoops ice cream

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Elissa Brown, owner of Wild Scoops, holds pints of ice cream as she stands in her new storefront in downtown Anchorage on June 9, 2017. Brown has been experimenting with different local ingredients to produce some of the company’s more interesting flavors like Alaska Honeycomb and Snowy Birch. Photo credit: Young Kim

No one was screaming for ice cream downtown on the overcast evening of May 26, but people were eagerly lined up down the block from Wild Scoops’ new ice cream shop. It was the grand opening and despite the less-than-ideal weather, the waiting customers seemed ready to indulge their collective sweet tooth.

The company, which has a penchant for locally sourced ingredients and unique flavors, had a sign out front listing the day’s flavors. Names like: Blueberry Balsamic, Yukon Gold, Turnagain Mudflats, Redoubts Revenge, Alaska Honeycomb and Snowy Birch.

Owner of Wild Scoops, Ellissa Brown walked up and down the line offering samples. For her, opening a shop had been just a “vague, lofty dream.” She’s been experimenting with ice cream flavors for years, but her background isn’t in the culinary arts.

Originally from California, Brown went to went to school on the East Coast for education and environmental studies. She’s traveled all over for experiential teaching opportunities and eventually moved to Alaska with her fiance. She loved the state’s enthusiasm for local products and there seemed to be a void ready to be filled with homegrown ice cream.

“It’s just fun to make a product that brings a smile to people’s faces and also helps instill this sense of state pride and excitement over what we have here,” Brown said.

The company was founded in 2015 and after navigating the “labyrinth” of legal requirements to get the business up and running, Wild Scoops started off small. They rented kitchen space from Mad Myrna’s and sold their ice cream at farmers markets and pop-up events. Eventually they outgrew their setup and opened a test kitchen at the end of last year where they make all their products that aren’t sourced from other local businesses.

“Sourcing things locally was one of our priorities from the start,” Brown said. “And I think we started the business knowing that it was important for us to find as many local ingredients as possible and it’s been nice because it’s guided our growth.”

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Brown figures Wild Scoops has partnered with over 50 different small companies to make their ever-evolving flavor offerings. They’ve used local ingredients ranging from birch syrup and rhubarb to cookies and beer.

“It’s really exciting to produce a product that really cultivates a sense of place through its ingredients,” Brown said.

In addition to cultivating a sense of place through flavor, Brown wants to cultivate a sense of community through Wild Scoops — whether that’s interacting with customers at farmers markets or having people stop by the shop. At the test kitchen they have tastings every Thursday so people can stop by and see what new flavors are being developed.

Word of mouth and several thousand social media followers seem to have gone a long way in helping to build and maintain their customer base.

Anessa Feero, a recent high school graduate and friend of some Wild Scoops employees, walked out of the shop on a recent Friday afternoon carrying a Baked Alaska cone. She never made it to any of the farmers markets or pop ups Wild Scoops was a part of before the shop opened, but after seeing a video on Instagram of them making ice cream, she knew she had to come to check it out.

“They have a very, shall I say, fiery social media platform,” Feero said.

Feero appreciates the locally sourced ingredients, and after being introduced to them in ice cream form, said she’d be more likely to check out the products of Wild Scoops’ partners.

“The fact that they went out of their way to find locally made products to use in their own locally made products – it’s nice,” Feero said.

Leah Knight just started her third week working for Wild Scoops. It’s her first job working at an ice cream shop, but she likes it so far. Her first day was the grand opening and said employees were scooping for five straight hours. Despite the potential drudgery of serving ice cream to the endless masses, Knight said she wants to give every customer a good experience.

“We try to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible. I mean, we want to make people happy. We’re giving them ice cream,” Knight said.

Wild Scoops’ new shop is located at 429 E Street and is open from Noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.