New flavors, new look at Herrell’s Ice Cream in Northampton

  • William Takahashi-Risinger, 3, of Northampton, eats ice cream with his family Sunday at the grand reopening of Herrell’s Ice Cream. SARAH CROSBY/GAZETTE STAFF

  • Emi Lee of Amherst, left, and Miranda Taylor-Weiss of Palmer eat ice cream Sunday at the grand reopening of Herrell’s Ice Cream in Northampton. SARAH CROSBY/GAZETTE STAFF

Monday, January 23, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — Before customers choose from more than 60 flavors on any given day at Herrell’s Ice Cream & Sweet Bakery, some of them take a seat on the “pondering bench.”

Such an important decision. They want to get it right.

“People will stare at the flavors off the menu board for a while until they figure out what they want,” said Judy Herrell, owner of the downtown institution that opened on Old South Street in 1980.

The pondering bench is just one addition to the remodeled store. On Sunday, after almost a year of renovations, Herrell’s fans streamed in for free cookies a la mode at noon for the grand re-opening celebration. Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz cut a ribbon as Herrell stood to the side and smiled.

Other changes include new and more seating, a swivel chair bar and all new, “energy-efficient” equipment. The celebration came after six years of planning and $700,000 in renovations — and counting. Herrell said she only ever stopped selling ice cream for a few days because she opened a temporary location in Florence.

The shop sells legendary ice cream flavors like cookies ‘n cream, butter pecan and chocolate. But customers can also veer into uncharted territory at Herrell’s. The shop sells on a rotating basis 60 flavors out of about 370 in the hopper.

The store also offers non-dairy — or “No-Moo®” — and no-sugar-added options. It’s a Kosher-certified facility.

Herrell said she comes from a science background and likes to experiment. In February, Herrell and Allison Wurmbrand, the operations manager, start working on new flavors.

Most flavors are sweet. Some are savory. The others are bizarre.

Take tomato ice cream, for example. Herrell said the staff perfected the flavor after several fits and starts.

“Our first rendition of tomato ice cream was a terrible flavor,” she said. “Tasted like Campbell’s soup. Now it tastes more like tomato reserves with clove. It’s really pretty.”

They also sell Thanksgiving ice cream featuring cranberries, pecans and sage, jalapeno ice cream and plum-flavored ice cream. 

“We do things that other people go, ‘oh I can’t imagine that tastes good,’” Herrell said. “And then they taste it and they go, ‘oh that tastes good!’”

An offshoot of chocolate ice cream is chocolate pudding ice cream. 

“It’s a very, very dense, heavy chocolate,” Herrell said.

Seven-year-old Gus had a ring of it around his mouth Sunday. His 2-year-old sister Josie stuck her face into a ramekin of vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles.

“It tastes, like, more sweet and looks much darker than chocolate,” Gus said.

Sarah Daunt, 30, and Kristen Tobias, 29, sipped Mexican hot chocolate. They’re the two siblings’ babysitters and trekked downtown from the Berkshires on Sunday.

“He (Gus) wanted to go downtown, and we said, ‘well, where do you want to go?’” Tobias said. “Herrell’s is always his first response.”

Jack Suntrup can be reached at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.