Ample Hills Creamery, a Brooklyn-based chain of ice cream shops that has become renowned for its unusual and decadent creations, has raised $4 million in funding from Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Red Sea Ventures, and individual investors, including Brooklyn Brewer co-founder Tom Potter, who led a CircleUp syndicate that joined the round.
While a somewhat atypical investment for venture investors, Ample Hills appealed to its backers for a number of reasons, says Charlie O’Donnell of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures . For starters, the business is already an established brand, having appeared on the Food Network and on the lists of numerous organizations that have ranked it among the top ice creameries in New York and even the country.
Its ice cream shops are growing fast. Starting with a flagship store in Prospect Heights, husband-and-wife owners Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna have more recently opened stores in Brooklyn Bridge Park and Gowanus, along with two smaller outposts in Manhattan.
O’Donnell, who began unofficially advising the couple on expansion and retail opportunities earlier this year, said he also began to realize their conversations were very much like those he has with tech startups. “It was ‘Who do we hire? What do we focus on? How do we not run out of money?’ And “frankly,” says O’Donnell, “I probably know more about ice cream than the fashion-tech companies I’ve invested in.”
With savvy marketing and flavors that aim to evoke visitors’ childhoods – last month, when the Mets were playing in the World Series, Ample Hills created a special ice cream flavor with kettle corn and peanut brittle; it’s also known to employ homemade peppermints and malt balls – the company is already doing “millions in revenue,” says O’Donnell.
Now, armed with that fresh $4 million, it will be building out its management team, working to expand the reach of its wholesale pint distribution (including via select grocery stores and through a direct-to-consumer model), and creating its first larger-scale production facility. “They literally can’t make any more ice cream than they already do from their current location,” says O’Donnell.