March 11, 2019
Jackie Cuscana, co-founder of Ample Hills Creamery, shares why ice-cream and community are a perfect flavor pairing – and why JC feels like home.
Community has always been close to the heart of Queens native Jackie Cuscana. And what better way to bring people together than ice-cream?
The idea for Ample Hills arose when Jackie and her husband Brian, then living in Brooklyn, wanted to open a shop where their kids could hang out.
“We wanted to have a place that was a community hub,” she says. “We didn’t really have that in Brooklyn at the time. There wasn’t any kind of an ice cream shop or place that welcomed kids and adults.”
The first Ample Hills Creamery opened in May 2011 on Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and since then the business has been scooping up new community-oriented venues. Jersey City is its latest location, and Jackie couldn’t be happier about moving in.
“I love Jersey City. It’s like an extension of old neighborhoods I knew growing up. It reminds me a lot of Queens and Brooklyn. We had been looking around Jersey City and happened to get approached by the URBY folks and the rest is history.”
Jackie doesn’t believe in expansion for the sake of expansion. The goal is to open up community-based ice-cream shops, which means taking both location and locals into consideration.
“We are not a cookie cutter space. We’re about adding to the community so that people are getting what they need. Every community’s needs can be different and we recognize that. We approach our growth in a more tailored, authentic and specific way to meet the needs of the community. For example, we create kids play areas in all our shops so there is something for them to do.”
“I love it when a scoop of ice cream is the source of someone’s happiness.”
Other than inclement weather – rainy days mean slow days in the ice-cream business – Jackie’s main challenge is to ensure that Ample Hills stays true to its roots.
“We want to make sure we are remaining ‘unchainy’ as we open new locations. What’s most important to us is how we keep the authenticity and spirit of our community experience and customer service up to a level that we know we can only do with just a few shops.”
Jackie and Brian achieve this by spending as much time working in the business as on it.
“I like to visit all of our shops as much as I can. I love spending time in them. There’s always a post-lunch ice-cream rush, and summertime also brings a ton of customers on the weekends and during the weeknight evenings.”
The best part of it all? Actually getting to scoop ice-cream and serve people.
“I love people’s reactions when they taste a flavor for the first time and connect with their childhood. My own favorite is cookies and cream. It’s simple, but so very good.”