Sweet Melissa's expands to Press Bay Alley


By Jamie Swinnerton

Tompkins Weekly


Spring is here and warm weather is soon to follow (eventually). But it doesn’t have to be the middle of summer for Ithaca residents to start enjoying a sweet treat from a local business. Sweet Melissa’s originally started with a soft-serve ice cream counter in Shortstop Deli. Just last year they celebrated the one-year anniversary of their expansion in Trumansburg, How Sweet It Is. Now, they’re ready to branch out one more time.

Last Saturday, Sweet Melissa’s 2.0 quietly opened in Press Bay Alley where a bike shop used to be. It’s a move the building’s owner has been talking to Melissa Kenny, the owner of Sweet Melissa’s, for a while, said Kenny’s husband Matt. Back in January, the ice cream shop hosted a pop-up in the vacant Press Bay store.

“After doing that we got a really good response from it, and so we talked to him more about if we could stay and sign a year lease just to see what happens,” said Matt Kenny at the new shop. “We figured that our hard ice cream is such a hit that if we could offer a year-round shop down here, like our one in Trumansburg, that would probably go over fairly well.”

The original ice cream counter in Shortstop will stay seasonal, while 2.0 will be open throughout the year. But, the new store, with its limited space, will not be serving soft-serve ice cream. Right now, hours for the new store are still being worked out based on the traffic that the alley has later in the day.

Back when the original owners of Shortstop were leaving, Sweet Melissa’s owners were unsure of what the future would hold. It was around this time that Guttridge, owner of Press Bay Alley, approached them with an offer to move the entire business to his location. But, as Kenny explains it, their longtime manager at Shortstop was going to be taking over their lease and they had no reason to leave. But the idea of a shop in Press Bay lingered.

“We really like the concept of it,” Kenny said. “One of the main points is that he keeps the rent fairly low, especially by Ithaca standards. And he’s been wanting to expand more and get more businesses over here.”

Other tenants of the alley only had good things to say about Guttridge and doing business in that part of the city. So far, they’ve been right.

“For it being March and not the warmest, we’ve been happy,” Kenny said of the reaction they’ve seen to the new store already.

The high number of events and festivals were also a draw to this particular location. Close to downtown but not right in the middle of it all, Press Bay has still successfully pulled in the crowds from Apple Fest, Chili Fest, Chowder Fest, etc. Enough so that the alley has become the hub for its own annual fest: the Harry Potter themed fest, Wizarding Weekend.

Kenny said they don’t have any current plans to open another branch, at least not right now.

“Three shops is enough for now,” Kenny said. “The way they have the T-Burg shop set up right now, my wife’s production facility is in the back and then our longtime manager runs the café part in the front. So, that’s working for now.”

When the original shop shortened its menu last year, Kenny said they could tell some of their customers were not as enthused with the hard ice cream as the soft serve. But they’ve gained more followers that also appreciate their rotating flavors of hard ice cream too.

“When this place came around we thought ‘Oh we can have a dedicated shop where we’re doing exactly what the people that come for our hard ice cream can get year-round,’” Kenny said “So that was a big catalyst for it too, that was really special to a lot of people so we figured we could offer it again.”

To help run the new store Kenny said they hope to hire about two or three more people but for now will work with the employees they already have.

They never expected to have three shops, Kenny said, but it’s not anything new to him. Growing up, his parents ran an ice cream shop. He and Melissa once thought about going the food truck route, but that came with too many hurdles to really consider.

“That, and we have three little kids, so it’s just not feasible right now,” Kenny said.

Although 2.0 has already had their silent opening the shop still needs a few things. Kenny said he still needs to finish the counters to his satisfaction and put some shelves up on the wall where they plan on selling old-fashioned candy. Closer to the end of the month the shop will be holding a more formal grand opening.



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