NORTHAMPTON — With the completion of renovations and additions at Herrell’s Ice Cream, the sweetest of Pioneer Valley staples just got sweeter.
The shop’s new and improved flagship location — tucked away off Main and Old South streets, adjacent to the previous space — is up and running after about six years of planning and 10 months of labor-intensive renovations. The new digs include additional seating, a swivel chair bar, all new equipment, additional dessert shelf space and a dishwasher that staff has named “Beau.”
So far, the renovations have cost about $700,000, owner Judy Herrell said, and the costs are still climbing. For instance, she said, a handicapped-accessible ramp is slated to be installed by April.
The shop will have its grand reopening Jan. 22, when cookie a la modes will be given to anyone who pays a visit. In addition to a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony, guests will also be served by Mayor David Narkewicz.
“The great thing about this space is it’s a little bit bigger,” Herrell said on a tour of the shop Friday. “It’s a little bit more relaxed, but it still has that kind of funky appeal that people like — all of the woodworking you see in the new space is hand-done,” she added, referring to the brand new booths and benches that line the back wall.
By the numbers, the ice cream shop increased its seating capacity more than 50 percent, from 23 seats to 39, according to Herrell.
“We wanted to be the destination for dessert,” Herrell said.
In the back room lies the ice cream nerve center, where a single machine churns out the almost 400 flavors that are sold throughout the year. On Friday, Allison Wurmbrand, the shop’s manager of store operations, was overseeing the repair of that machine.
“I’m pretty much OK with catastrophe up until that machine breaks,” she said. Making this ice cream, Wurmbrand added, is a science.
“There’s a right way and a wrong way to make ice cream,” she said.
Of the renovations, Wurmbrand said, “I think the customers will most enjoy the new layout with more seating.”
Throughout Friday afternoon, customers came and went, picking from the 44 or so ice cream flavors and 12 non-dairy options. At the old space, those numbers were roughly 34 ice cream flavors and four non-dairy options, Herrell said.
“We always introduce new flavors,” she said, adding that the newest selections are expected to be out in March. “We usually do experiments in the winter.”
Herrell called the new add-ons and improvements “state-of-the-art, energy-efficient and environmentally sound.”
An example Herrell highlighted was an automated, state-of-the-art ice cream scooper cleaner that uses significantly less water — from roughly 300,000 gallons used annually to a projected 25,000 gallons.
AnneMarie Osheyack, 34, who’s a teacher at Northampton High School, was enjoying ice cream with a former student of hers Friday while her 19-month-old son, Lucas, wandered around just nearby.
“This is his first time to Herrell’s,” Osheyack said, looking to her son. “I was really surprised when we came in here … we didn’t know about the renovations — lots of space. (We’re) so happy … he’s been running around all day, so it’s really nice to have a place where you can go and take a toddler and relax. This is a really, really well-needed treat at the end of the day.”
On Saturday, as downtown is enveloped in its annual First Night activities, Herrell’s Ice Cream will remain open until 1 a.m. (instead of its usual midnight closing time) and serve complimentary hot chocolate to guests through Midnight if they’re sporting a First Night button.
In the meantime, between now and Jan. 22, Herrell’s employees will be scooping away.
“There’s no stopping us now,” Herrell said.
Michael Majchrowicz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.