“What is it then between us?
What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us?
Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not, and place avails not,
I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine…”
– from “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” in Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”
Jersey City just got a lot sweeter. That’s because Ample Hills Creamery, one of Brooklyn’s most beloved ice cream makers, opened up shop on November 3 at the Jersey City Urby Development (200 Greene Street) in Jersey City.
Now poetry may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about ice cream. Then again, Ample Hills Creamery is not just any ice cream maker.
The story dates back to 2011 when the the-little-ice-cream-shop-that-could co-owners Jackie Cuscuna and Brian Smith (partners in ice cream crime and married in real life) opened up their first location in the Prospect Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Ample Hills prides itself on making ice cream from scratch. And on that fateful opening day, they started with 130 gallons of their homemade Peppermint Pattie, Stout ‘n’ Pretzels (beer, chocolate ice cream, and milk-chocolate covered pretzels), Bubblegum (all natural and colored with beet juice), and more.
Four days later, Cuscuna and Smith had sold every last scoop and had to temporarily close down to make more of their ice cream, named after a reference in Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.”
“I remember how scary it was when we opened our doors for the first time wondering if people would come, and if they’d keep coming,” Cuscuna said. “Our reception at Vanderbilt [623 Vanderbilt Avenue] was overwhelming and gratifying and when we had to close after selling out of ice cream the first four days, [and] the fact that those customers returned and many more kept coming was even more rewarding.”
The company has grown significantly in their last six (plus) years, and Cuscuna and Smith felt it was time to cross another river. “We had wanted to move out of our comfort zone in New York City and we fell in love with Jersey City,” said co-owner Jackie Cuscuna. “We thought it reminded us of Brooklyn — both the old and the new. The buildings are almost reminiscent of Downtown Brooklyn with its quaint and beautiful streets. We love the whole area. And it’s quicker for us to get to Jersey City by the PATH train than using the subways to get to the Upper West Side.”
Now you can certainly expect the new location to carry their tried-and-true: The Munchies: (“pretzel-infused ice cream with clusters of Ritz crackers, potato chips, pretzels and mini M&Ms”); Chocolate Milk & Cookies; (“chocolate milk ice cream with pieces of organic Back to Nature sandwich creme cookies”); and Ooey Gooey Butter Cake; (“the creamiest vanilla ice cream with hunks of St. Louis-style Ooey Gooey Butter Cake”).
But Jersey City is getting their very own signature flavor, called The Golden Door. The name is a reference to Jersey City’s nickname, taken from the last line from Emma Lazarus’s poem, “The Last Colossus.” The flavor features a cannoli filling-infused ice cream with dark chocolate whiskey cake and streusel crumble.
The poem was written by Lazarus as a fundraiser to build the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. In 1903, the poem was engraved on the pedestal’s lower level. “It’s a meaningful time when it comes to the immigrant experience.”
In addition to the ice cream-churning stationary bicycle that has become a signature to Ample Hills, expect an open, airy space and a birthday party room to boot.
While their company is growing, Cuscuna says that finding the right space is vital, “whether it’s a neighborhood, a street or a building,” she said. “We were researching and found out about this special place that we wanted to inhabit.” The feeling was mutual, as Jersey City Urby Development wanted Ample Hills to move in.
Ample Hills is also a good neighbor and enjoys collaborating with nearby businesses. In 2016, they joined forces with Ashley Albert, co-founder of Royal Palms Shuffleboard which is right next door to the creamery’s Gowanus location. Albert was launching a new company called the Matzo Project. They created a Passover-themed flavor called “The Land of Milk and Honey.”
Cuscuna hopes to find new collaborators in Jersey City. “We love working with other people,” she said.
The first weeks of the opening have felt like a homecoming of sorts. “There are so many people that moved from Brooklyn to Jersey City,” Cuscuna said. “On opening day, a new customer came up to me and said, ‘You catered my wedding.'”
Ample Hills is located at 200 Greene Street in Jersey City. They are open Sunday-Thursday, 12pm – 11pm, and Friday-Saturday from 12pm — 12am. For more information, visit www.amplehills.com or follow Ample Hills on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook: @AmpleHills.