Photo by Madoline Markham.
Mountain Brook Creamery
Mountain Brook Creamery owner Jay Connor scoops a colorful cone of C is for Cookie, Black Cherry and Dreamsicle ice cream flavors.
Most people who have spent any time at all in Mountain Brook know that connections run deep and wide around here. Like an old geological survey, one can trace streams to creeks and rivers to the ocean, but still never find a beginning or an end.
Jay Connor, owner of Mountain Brook Creamery knows this first hand. Connor and his family grew up in nearby Bluff Park and worked summers as a teenager in the small ice cream shop on Cahaba Road. He spent many a day bending into cold freezers to scoop out mounds of ice cream for customers of all ages. But it took growing up, going off to college (University of Alabama, y’all) and getting married for him to really appreciate this part of his past.
Originally opened in 1957, the ice cream shop had once been a Baskin-Robbins. Later, the company decided to close down operations in the Southeast, but the store was renamed and the business of selling ice cream continued. In 2007, Connor and his family moved back to the area, and he bought Mountain Brook Creamery, starting a new chapter in the business.
Selling cold confections is not rocket science, but still no one wants to mess up a good thing. Connor has a keen sense of who his customer is and what their tastes are: “Our number one seller is Mint Chocolate Chip. Hands down, year in and year out. I’d say we sell twice as much of that flavor as we do any other.” On one of our recent visits, several customers came in and made a bee-line for that particular flavor, never bothering to even look at the other offerings.
While guests may have their favorites, it’s worth stopping to check out what is new in the freezer. Connor stays abreast of epicurean trends and which flavor profiles are heating up. He knows that not every combination will fly in Mountain Brook –toasted coconut and ground wasabi peas anyone? He is eager to try a few new ones that will pass muster. One that is getting a lot of attention this summer is Mexican Hot Chocolate. This ice cream combines rich chocolate flavor with a little cinnamon and spicy pepper. Swirls of marshmallow complete the profile. Connor likes his cone with a red raspberry sorbet chaser; that sweet fruit makes a nice foil to the spicy chocolate.
Many of the village’s younger customers come in clamoring for Superman ice cream. Like the superhero himself, this is something rather plain and simple, dressed up in flashy clothes, with an uncanny and incredible ability to instill peace. Yes, those neon reds, blues and yellows easily obfuscate the ordinary vanilla ice cream that can calm even the fussiest three-yearold. Super ice cream indeed.
I wondered how this ice cream shop, as charming as it is, stays busy year-round.
The secret, Connor said, is in the ice cream cakes. They fly out the door anytime but especially during any holiday. Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day are perennial favorites for these confections. It also doesn’t hurt to be located less than half a mile from the Birmingham Zoo; it seems nothing goes better than a visit with giraffes and elephants with a trip to Mountain Brook Creamery. I couldn’t agree more.
The other secret Connor will share is that plenty of his fellow merchants in the village frequent his shop daily. Yes, every single day. Most of them love Mint Chocolate Chip too but several enjoy his special Only 8 frozen yogurt, which is nofat, lo-calorie and all-natural. “This stuff is super popular. People feel like they get the pleasure of ice cream, but without as many calories.”
Connor continues to grow his business, having started Edgewood Creamery in Homewood in 2009. He continues to hire young high school and college kids to help him run the place; no doubt one of them will be bitten by the ice cream bug too, maybe even buying the place when they grow up. There is a lot to be said for tradition around here.
Want one more secret? Connor’s sister, Elan Morosini, and her husband Marco, own the Silvertron Restaurant in Forest Park. Printed at the bottom of every Silvertron receipt is a coupon good for one Buy-One-Get-One-Scoop-Free at Mountain Brook Creamery. See? I told you those connections run deep and wide in these parts.
Christiana Roussel lives in Crestline and enjoys all things food-related. Follow her culinary musings online at ChristianasKitchen.com or on Facebook or Twitter (@Christiana40).