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What’s the Scoop? On Purity Ice Cream.

Purity Ice Cream on March 4 (Isabella Grullon)
On Saturday March 4, one of the coldest days this winter, Purity Ice Cream was buzzing with customers who wanted to get a scoop of some homemade frozen treats.

Purity Ice Cream, also known as the “ice-cream of the Finger Lakes” was founded by Leo Guentert in 1936. It went from being a small shop on Ithaca’s First Street to a fun community space on the corner of Cascadilla and Meadow St., mostly thanks to Heather Lane.

Purity Ice Cream Menu on March 4 (Isabella Grullon)

Heather and her husband, Bruce, bought Purity Ice Cream in 1998. “We used to come here after dates before we were married…and we saw that it needed some love,” Lane said in the middle of the Saturday ice-cream rush, between checking up on customers and the bakery in the back of the shop. “We were really interested in making it bigger, making it different, and I have made Purity what is it is today.”

Purity Ice Cream founder, Leo Guentert picture hangs in the shop(Isabella Grullon)
Purity Ice Cream founder, Leo Guentert picture hangs in the shop(Isabella Grullon)

Lane admits that she hated the first year she owned Purity because of the learning curve she faced. “I was 30, and I had to figure out how manufacturing worked as well as distribution into grocery stores and managing sales people,” Lane said. “I was also pregnant that first year.”

Purity Ice Cream used to base its revenue on a balance of in-store sales, and selling out to wholesalers and distributors. Now, Purity’s wholesale sector is only 20 percent of their business. Eighty percent of the store’s revenue comes from retail.

She says that with any business acquisition, “it’s really good to just hang out and figure out who the people are, what is their motivation, what is the product, how is it made, and then you can start to change it to where you think it’s going to make the best effect.” And that is what she did with Purity Ice Cream.

“At first I had no clue, I just loved the ice-cream, and then as I grew and I understood the business more I took it from a four-month business to having a couple of slow months: January and February,” Lane said.

Purity Ice Cream Cupcakes (Isabella Grullon)
Purity Ice Cream Cupcakes (Isabella Grullon)

The store now sells breakfast and lunch as well as freshly baked goods. Lane wanted it to be a place for everyone to enjoy, and it is.

“I have a lot of allergies, and they have soy ice-cream here at Purity, which I can eat, and a lot of places don’t have that,” said Danielle Edelstein, a sophomore Speech-Language Pathology major at Ithaca College. She has been coming to Purity since her first year at Ithaca because it is one of the only places she can have a dessert.

Her success has had some hard times, however. One of the biggest challenges she has faced as the owner was the decision to stop manufacturing the ice-cream in the store ten years ago. She explained that the machinery they were using was outdated and produced little ice cream to compared to the volume they needed to be selling. “Byrne Dairy, where the ice cream is made, can make 1000 gallons an hour whereas our little machine could only make 85 gallons an hour,” Lane said.

It was a tough choice to make because she had to “take the leap of someone else making [her] ice cream.” She was so scared about the decision that she decided to get her MBA because she thought Purity would not survive the transition.

Purity is not only a great place to eat, but according to supervising manager Chloe Snyder, it is also a great place to work, according to Chloe Snyder, who. Snyder has been a manager at Purity for three years.

Purity Ice Cream Cones (Isabella Grullon)
Purity Ice Cream Cones (Isabella Grullon)

“The best part about working here is the people that I work with. You make a lot of really good connections and you bond about a lot of the same stuff that you go through,” Snyder said.

Snyder wants to finish her graduate studies in fashion design but says that working at Purity has given her a lot of great skills and experiences to bring into her field later on.

When it comes to the Purity, Lane likes to emphasize that “it’s not only that you’re selling an item, it’s that you’re selling an experience,” and that she wanted to the focus of Purity Ice Cream to not only be the quality of the product but the fact that ice-cream is a form of celebration and a place for everyone. She has made it just that.

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