How this Brooklyn ice cream shop used 'Gilmore Girls' to win fans across the US

Ample Hills Creamery ships special flavors nationwide, so fans can taste pop culture.

Ample Hills Creamery doesn't advertise all that much. It's only available in six scoop shops and in pints via 20 grocery stores. Except for a single location in Disneyworld, all are located in New York City. How, then, is this five-year-old, Brooklyn-based ice cream brand shipping hundreds of pints daily to 49 states? Two words: "Gilmore Girls."

"The story starts with my wife, who's a huge 'Gilmore Girls' fan. She got up very early in the morning and got a cup of coffee at one of the cafes that was turned into 'Luke's Diner,'" said Lauren Kaelin, art director at Ample Hills. "When she came back, we started talking about how there should be a 'Gilmore Girls' ice cream because in addition to coffee, there are so many other food references in the show. [Characters] Lorelai and Rory obviously enjoy junk food as much as the rest of us. It just seemed like such a rich material for an ice cream flavor."

On Oct. 17, Ample Hills tasked its social media followers to create a flavor in anticipation of the fast-talking TV show's return as a four-episode miniseries on Netflix on Nov. 25. Websites like Refinery29 and InStyle picked up the contest (Ample Hills works with First Press Public Relations), ballooning entries to more than 2,500. On Nov. 7, Kaelin and her co-workers selected the winning flavor. "They Scoop Gilmores, Don't They?" is a combination of chocolate pudding, coffee, snickerdoodle cookies and Pop Tart sprinkles—an amalgamation of several episodes packed into one sugary pint. It's sold by the scoop in Ample Hills' New York stores and as a "Gilmore Girls"-themed four-pack available nationwide via FedEx.  

Thank you to all those fans who participated in our #GilmoreGirlsIceCream contest! After combing through over 2,500 entries, we are thrilled to announce the winning flavor! They Scoop Gilmores, Don't They? Coffee (of course) chocolate pudding ice cream (because Emily is trying after all) but oy, with the snickerdoodles already-- topped with pink [Pop Tart] sprinkles. There were so many excellent options, puns and flavor combinations that we couldn’t choose just one. The winning flavor is an amalgamation of three amazing suggestions: @pauline__beal’s allusion to Emily’s attempt at chocolate pudding, @ryebecca’s ingenius "oy with the snickerdoodles already" and @jjjmmd’s name-- a reference to a reference to a reference. This flavor will be available at all our NYC scoop shops beginning this week and is available for nationwide shipping now! You can order individual pints in a Choose Your Own Story 5-Pack or opt for a Gilmore Girls-themed 4-Pack: Where You Lead, I Will Marshmallow (name suggested by Rebecca Phillips). Copper boom!

A photo posted by Ample Hills Creamery (@amplehills) on

Those unfamiliar with Ample Hills Creamery may see its "Gilmore Girls" tie-in as pure luck, but the brand has a history of creating specialty flavors that tap into the pop culture zeitgeist. It released "Madam President" and "Make American Orange Again" flavors for the presidential election. When "The X-Files" re-launched, X-philes stood in line for "paranormal green," pistachio ice cream mixed with chocolate-covered, sunflower seeds—Fox Mulder's favorite. For the final season of "Breaking Bad," Ample Hills sold the "Heisenberry" flavor filled with blue rock candy imported from Albuquerque, N.M., and the "Mad Men" finale pint tasted like an old fashioned cocktail with candied orange peel. Its top-selling specialty flavors remain "The Light Side" and "The Dark Side" from, you guessed it, "Star Wars."

"The 'Star Wars' flavors sold probably 400% or 500% over anything we've ever done," said Brian Smith, co-founder of Ample Hills. "'Gilmore Girls' is a quarter or a fifth of that, which is still more than anything else we've done—the second most popular thing we've ever done in terms of shipping and online sales, without a doubt. There's actually no third. There's nothing else that even compares."

The creation of the "Star Wars" flavors stemmed from a 2014 Wall Street Journal article, announcing the creamery's nationwide shipping launch. When Disney CEO Bob Iger placed one of the first orders, Smith took notice and sent him not only ice cream, but the brand's cookbook, and a Kaelin illustration that featured Mickey Mouse in an Ample Hills shirt next to the creamery's cow mascot in a "Frozen" shirt. A sweet relationship formed, resulting in a Disneyworld location and an official license to sell "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" ice cream pints.

"We always try to do fun, creative, inventive flavors that capture our audience's ideas and help along with that process," Kaelin said. "Because we make all of the ice cream in Brooklyn, and because we make it from start to finish, we have a lot of flexibility in how we alter the flavors."

Ample Hills' small size also makes it nimble enough for Kaelin to hand-design watercolor labels for each pint in-house, which is the company's only added cost to making the specialty flavors, said the art director. The return on investment from "They Scoop Gilmores, Don't They," she said, is worth it: "There's not a lot of money in shipping ice cream across the country, at least at the margins that we're looking at right now, but it's an opportunity for us to get our brand and our ice cream in front of more people."

Smith agreed. "My hunch would be that 75% of people around the country who are now ordering the 'Gilmore Girls' ice cream have never tried Ample Hills before, so all of a sudden, we're creating new Ample Hills fans, which is really important as we grow the brand more nationally."

But don't expect to see Ample Hills ice cream in neighborhoods outside of New York anytime soon. The company currently has only one delivery truck and doesn't work with a distributor. However, in 2017, the brand plans to open a larger production facility, which may help it expand—especially if its newfound fans demand it.

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