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article imageReview: A Denver couple goes West to pursue dream of Ice Cream Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Jul 24, 2015 in Business
Sonoma - It's not everyday that a young couple would move over 765 miles just to follow a dream to open an ice cream shop. Yet that is what Joe and Ramie Hencmann did, leaving their well-established lives in Denver to venture to a place unknown, like Sonoma.
"I have family out here in the San Francisco area, so we are not totally alone in this," said Ramie. Yet, she pointed out that as a family with small children, "it seemed like all we were doing was rushing through our lives; trying to do so many things and yet not really following our dreams." "With my job in the corporate sector, she said and Joe at the ice cream shop we wanted to own something more than just a home, we wanted to be part of a community and give back to the community we are a part of," she said.
Taking that risk was something the two of them just felt it was right the time to do and making use of 21st Century tools, the first step was by way of a web search on Google. The town of Sonoma appealed to them both and on their very first visit, they were smitten.
Ramie is the management side of Sweet Scoops Homemade Ice Cream. Yet it is Joe Hencmann and his passion for ice cream that is at the heart of the entire venture. While things moved quickly it took about three months for everything to come together, refurbish, renovate and re-brand. Ramie's strategy was to step in gently to an existing establishment. Ever since the shop re-opened this month as Sweet Scoops on Sonoma's much coveted plaza, the lines forming to get a scoop of Joe homemade ice cream have been out the door.
Yet, even the gentle approach, of repainting was perhaps fortuitous because the previous owners had painted the front door a shocking pink. As the Sonoma Index-Tribune reported, it caused a controversy in what is established as a historical landmark area. Bright pink did not go over well with the traditional influences in town. So by quietly painting the front door and the entire shop a soft pastel of mint green and pale blue, the stage was re-set at just the right time. Summer and ice cream; the two are synonymous and stir in the flow of tourists who flock to Northern California's wine growing region and prospects are promising.
Hencmann's former employer Bob Pailet is not surprised. "Joe makes a high quality product. It is his passion. And what many people don't know, said Pailet is that ice cream like his is made fresh on site with all the care and attention that ice cream you buy at the supermarket just does not have."
He explained further, "most of the ice cream in stores are made in large quantities to be on the frozen food shelf for months. Whereas what Joe makes is fresh." Smaller more custom-made batches are consumed quickly and that allows for more fresh, natural ingredients and better quality control.
People who frequent the plaza in Sonoma, the tourists and locals alike are pleased. The reviews on Yelp have been praising. They can taste the love Joe and his wife Ramie have made with a fresh ice cream that is one-of-a-kind and unique. No other place in town makes ice cream daily on site. Taking over what had been previously known as Grandma Linda's and before that had been a Ben and Jerry's franchise couldn't have been any better.
For those not acquainted with Sonoma, the historic old Mission town, north of San Francisco, is a landmark. The plaza or town square as some refer to it, is the place for a business to be. Even just to be near it is a coveted spot for any business owner. Yet to have brisk sales within only weeks of opening, that certainly is sweet success. Hencmann said that he always dreamed of owning his own shop after 20 years of making ice cream for Bonnie Brae back in Denver, Colorado.
But as Hencmann's former employer Bob Pailet explained, "Success is not meaningful, unless it helps others to succeed." And, Joe and Ramie are committed to helping others, that is one of the reasons they wanted to start their own business.
Pailet is part owner of Bonnie Brae Ice Cream in Denver, on South University Blvd. He, wife Cindy and Ken and Judy Simon have owned/operated the award-winning Bonne Brae for almost 30 years. Community is important to them. Bonnie Brae dedicates a portion of its proceeds to local charity. While on assignment for The Sonoma Sun, this reporter contacted Hencmann's former job to inquire and confirm, Pailet called back almost immediately.
Pailet said he was very happy for Joe and Ramie and has no doubts about their ability to make it a success. He confirmed that Joe got his training in ice cream making while at Bonne Brae. Working there allowed him to do something more than just make the best homemade ice cream, he was building community. As Kerry Dougherty, manager of Bonnie Brae explained, "he knew all the regulars and I think he really learned that sense of community while on the job here," she said.
"Joe started here working at the counter serving ice cream, back in the 1990s when he was a freshman in high school," said Dougherty. But it was an unexpected chance of an opportunity that changed his life when someone was needed to help make the ice cream. "Joe just stepped up and filled in and that is when his passion for making ice cream took off," added Dougherty.
And even though, Joe went on to college and later got a full time job, "we worked with his schedule so he could continue making ice cream for us on weekends," said Pailet. Providing an opportunity for others to do well is something that both Joe and Ramie said they will foster. Ramie said that she and Joe are accustomed to working and being very dedicated. And, they hope that they can encourage and help their staff to excel in all that they do.
As busy as the shop has been with customers, Sweet Scoops makes sure everyone who walks in the door is greeted and made to feel at home. The aroma of fresh- made waffle cones fills the air, making the atmosphere even more inviting. "While we are going to be offering fresh sorbet's, sherbet's, and gluten-free creations, we just want to bring back the classic and iconic ice cream soda type of shop," said Ramie.
In keeping with the wine country customs, Sweet Scoops offers "flights of ice cream" - four tiny scoops of any flavor for only $6.00. All of Sweet Scoops creations are original, made fresh and are made with premium ingredients including organic, all natural, and local when available.
"Our most popular right now is my own variation of a butter-pecan favorite we used to serve in Colorado, I call "butter brickle," said Joe. Also at present on the menu is a fresh peach made with local organic peaches. For coffee fans, a cappuccino crunch is offered along with the traditional flavors people know. "I just want to make this the best, said Joe, and a sweet throw-back to a time when ice cream shops created a simple and genuine joy that Sweet Scoops Homemade Ice Cream hopes to become a destination on Sonoma Plaza.
Located right on the plaza-square at 408 - 1st Street, East, Sweet Scoops is open Sunday thru Thursday 12 Noon to 9 PM. And, open on Friday and Saturdays Noon to 10 PM. ATM/Debit - Credit cards are accepted. For more info visit the Sweet Scoops web site. Or call the shop at: 707-721-1187.
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