A 30,000+ sq. foot factory building in Phildelphia’s Frankford neighborhood may seem like an unlikely place to find a micro-creamery, but that’s exactly where Jen and Andy Satinsky of Weckerly’s Ice Cream have set up shop. When we arrive, Andy guides us through a brick labyrinth of staircases, hallways and hidden rooms at the former Globe Dye Works site. He explains that the building is undergoing renovations that will preserve its original character and allow more artisans, craftsmen, fabricators, artists and creators to utilize the space. It’s clear that we are in a unique place, where “art meets industry” and old meets new. In ironic contrast with the building’s history, there is now a shared, tangible appreciation for doing things by hand, making it an ideal spot for Weckerly’s.
Andy shows us the micro-creamery – a pristine room with white brick walls and intricate stainless steel appliances. Jen points out the pasteurizer, the hardening cabinet and the production freezer, explaining their important roles in the ice-cream making process. While this process ends on site with hand scooping, assembly, wrapping and labeling, it begins outside of the micro-creamery. Andy and Jen work in collaboration with local farmers, many of whom they know from working at area farmers markets, to incorporate fresh seasonal ingredients into every batch of ice cream. They use cream from Seven Stars Farm in Kimberton, PA, and fruit, herbs and vegetables from a number of nearby urban and rural farms. As we discuss local sourcing, we taste fresh blueberries harvested from a family farm in New Jersey and get an exclusive look at a new blueberry rum and lime ice cream, sandwiched between two cardamom crackers.
“We’ve found small urban farms, like Greensgrow Farm, that grow herbs we’re interested in. They were excited to plant a few varieties of mint and basil, which we’ve been getting from them. It’s really cool that we can go right down the street, cut it and there it is. Heritage Farm is another urban farm on the western edge of the city. We get some cool stuff from them – like tomorrow we’re picking up verbena, and in the fall we got fennel from them. It’s great working with people who are so close because they know the product. It’s more like working together than just buying from someone. They’re excited about growing it, so it gets us excited about making it into ice cream. It’s the same with the fruit from the larger farms. It’s nice having that relationship and being able to ask questions about varieties and how things are doing this year.” – Andy & Jen
Everything comes back to the micro-creamery to be assessed by Jen, the mastermind behind Weckerly’s unique flavor combinations. Originally from Pittsburgh, Jen is a skilled pastry chef with a passion for crafting seasonally-inspired desserts. Jen has a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for the local ingredients she uses in her recipes. She does exceptionally well balancing their subtle flavors. Each element stands out, making even the “ordinary” flavors quite extraordinary.
“I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth, but I love ice cream, I always have. Growing up, my grandmother would give us ice cream every single day of the year, so it kind of stuck with me. Ice cream was always my favorite thing to play around with. You can do a lot with it – cream takes on flavors in a really interesting way. I try to do things that are approachable, but a little different and unusual at the same time. When we have cherries, I just brainstorm, what’s going to showcase these cherries? We recently got apricots from a local farm and it wasn’t something that we were looking for, so we had to improvise. I try to keep it as approachable as possible. I like to challenge people to try something else.” – Jen
Jen and Andy are humbled by how quickly the popularity and demand for Weckerly’s has grown. They are dedicated to helping their operation thrive, without compromising quality or the special process behind their irresistible desserts. Jen describes a typical week to us: “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday is bulking up on production – getting the pints done, making cookies and sandwiches. Then the rest of the week is filling orders, getting them ready and finishing things up. We’re here every day.” The pair is excited to expand and plans to increase efficiency while taking their production to the next level by investing in a larger pasteurizer that will enable them to go from producing 12 gallons at a time, to producing 30 gallons at a time.
“Weckerly’s was something we decided to try together, as a side thing. We were both working full-time…when we were getting started. As it got busier we…decreased our other work hours until July of last year. Even the winter stayed busy! We thought we were going to go back to our other jobs and we just kept having work to do. Our biggest hurdle is that we don’t keep much of a back stock. The ice cream you’re getting is always super fresh, which is awesome, but that also means that each week we’re producing for that week or the next, as opposed to a few weeks out. Making thirty gallons at a time will be a monumental upgrade for us.” – Andy
In just over a year’s time, Andy and Jen have developed their side project into a full time business that produces some of the most sought after ice cream in Philadelphia, while continuing to support a number of local farms and growers. After indulging in a made-from-scratch ice cream sandwich, or tasting a cold spoonful from one of their pints, we think you’ll agree that the future is bright for Weckerly’s.
Q & A with A & J
How did Weckerly’s get it’s name?
“Before we married Jen’s last name was Weckerle. It was always what she wanted to call it, but it took us a year to arrive there. In the end we changed the “e” to a “y” to make it easier to pronounce.” – Andy
What is your personal favorite ice cream flavor?
“It’s always the newest one.”