The Charm Behind Churn
Each month, we like to showcase a local business whose mission is similar to our own. Kelley Costa, owner of Churn: Homemade Ice Cream and Coffee, followed her dream by opening up this labor of love business in Gibsonia. Read more about her story here.
In her mid-twenties, Kelley Costa was already a successful businesswoman; in fact, with the help of her father, she opened her first business at the age of 19. When she first thought about opening a new place, she was running two soft-serve ice cream stores and working on climbing the ladder in her tax role at her firm. These were well-paired businesses, since just as tax season would slow down, her summer enterprises would pick up. The dream for her own full-time business was always there. However, it would be a huge risk to walk away from the steady income of a reliable career with her tax firm to become a full-time entrepreneur. “I didn’t put in my two week notice,” she grins, “until two weeks before this place opened.”
It was during her 26th year, when Kelly had a life-altering experience that encouraged her to take the chance of a lifetime. She had a brain aneurysm. And it was during the following year, with a renewed perspective on life, that she began to revisit her dream in earnest. And for her 30th birthday, she took a trip to New York with her girlfriends. Visiting the old school coffee shops, and then a homemade gelato shop, the vision became much clearer and she started the process of seeking out a space for what would become her life: churn. homemade ice cream and coffee.
Still, the risk of leaving a full-time job with benefits never left her mind and the minds of others in her life. She had concerns over the parking at her current Gibsonia location and the construction took a little longer than anticipated. The upshot is that she has a space that is exactly as she envisioned it with lots of workspace, seating, and a homey feel. Churn opened on October 30, 2015, which was nerve racking for some.
“My dad said I was giving him heartburn,” she laughs. “He wanted to know what I was thinking, opening an ice cream shop in October!”
But with help from her local staff who connected so readily and warmly with the customers, the people found her and her parking lot without any issues. In fact, her business has grown so rapidly, she’s had to revamp her protocol to keep her ice cream in stock. Since it is homemade, she makes new flavors every day.
“Believe it not, I remember our first warm day and we were down to only four containers of ice cream,” Kelley shakes her head. “And I thought we’d be okay. Then I looked up and saw a line out of the door. I said to my helper, ‘Don’t tell them I’m the owner, it’ll be far less embarrassing for me if they complain.’” And the popularity of the place is still growing. She admits that Gibsonia and Allison Park have been very welcoming and keeping up with the demand is a labor of love.
Kelley says that most people don’t realize that she is making the ice cream fresh daily. This means many different flavors are available every time you stop in and that can be confusing to some customers. She is always taking requests and finding inspiration wherever she goes, but her original inspiration came from her grandparents. Kelley’s grandfather was the businessman in the family. And though there were many male proteges in the family, their interests lie in trade and manual labor. Kelley has always had an interest in business. Her grandfather advised that she would have to work with her brains instead of her hands. Yet, here she is—doing both.
It was Kelley’s Italian grandmother who indoctrinated her into the culinary world by counseling an understanding of the familiar, to give people what they yearn for, but to also take risks to expand their palettes. She learned other habits from those cooking lessons, such as not using measurements. It’s not always easy for those she is training when she advises them to keep putting the caramel in until she gives the signal. But that intuitive sense is what helps her to create innovative, yet complementary flavors.
The ice cream looks almost as good as it tastes. “I knew I had to have a space where people could come in and see it, so they can appreciate it,” she said. The visual appeal is stunning. The smooth and creamy textures of her homemade blends are a huge part of the allure. She has six staple flavors (vanilla, chocolate, espresso sprinkle, oreo, mint chocolate chip and caramel pretzel). In addition she has 12 other flavors displayed that change daily.
And her repertoire is always expanding. “Most people don’t know that I do ice cream cakes,” she said. There are an assortment online, but she will also do custom orders. It’s one of the best kept secrets of the summer, and a surefire way to spruce up the average picnic menu. “I’ve never liked cooking real food,” she admits, but she dubs herself a “dessert junkie.” And one trip to Churn can easily make a dessert junkie out of any average person, especially since they make everything from scratch that they can, including their own waffle cones and whipped cream.
Even if you have special dietary needs, Kelley is trying to meet those as well. She always offers a sugar-free option—and coming soon—she will be offering two dairy-free flavors. In fact, she will be offering this unique option very soon by utilizing coconut milk. As far as she knows, this is not being done by anyone else in the area. It may have a hint of coconut flavor, but the texture and taste will be the amazing product that Churn customers love. She is considering oreo and vanilla as the staple non-dairy options.
Churn is located at 5330 William Flynn Highway, in Gibsonia, right below the North Park Clubhouse. They are open daily: Monday - Thursday 6 AM. - 9 PM; Friday 6 AM. - 9:30 PM;
Saturday 7 AM - 9:30 PM; Sunday 8 AM. - 9 PM. Check out their full menu online at homemadeicecreamandcoffee.com.