It's been a mere nine months since Jesse Mason and Helen Qin officially sold the very first scoop of Mason's Creamery ice cream. But by early spring, the endearing couple will open their own production and retail space, in the former home of Ohio City Ice Cream and, before that, Dari Delite (4401 Bridge Ave.).
For the past 60 years, the ice cream shop operated as a seasonal attraction, with customers purchasing their chilly treats from a pair of walk-up windows. When Mason's Creamery opens in April, it will be as a year-round operation.
"We're completely remodeling the space," Mason explains. "The building is large enough to accommodate our production area plus a retail space up front."
The small retail space will be large enough for a counter and a few tables. Most importantly, it will provide shelter from the elements for wintertime customers. Mason's will maintain one walk-up window for dog-walkers and others on the go, but it will be relocated to the side of the building.
Many of the most dramatic changes will be reserved for outside the building's four walls, notes Mason. "It's a fantastic building, but there haven’t been any exterior improvements in 60 years."
A new shell and sign will go a long way to sprucing up the joint, but even better is the large green space that will be replacing yards and yards of unsightly blacktop. "We envision the space as a nice community gathering area — maybe with Friday night movies for the kids, picnic tables, and an herb garden for our products."
The permanent production space will allow Mason's Creamery to expand its wholesale business as well, says Mason. "The shared food incubator space [Cleveland Culinary Launch & Kitchen] is great, but it's difficult to produce on the sort of scale we'd need to for restaurants and grocery stores."
Nobody is more amazed by the Creamery's speedy growth than Mason himself, who adds that he doubts it could have happened anywhere but here.
"Moving back here after being gone for 13 years, I had pretty much lost contact with 99.9 percent of the people I grew up with, so we started from a base of not knowing anyone," he says. "Events like Walnut Wednesday and the flea markets really gave us an audience. People from Cleveland really support other people from Cleveland; they want to make the city better. And that's refreshing."
Look for fun 3D announcements, complete with glasses, posted around Ohio City in the coming days.