“What happened to the ice cream company the New York Times dubbed ‘Brooklyn’s Most Beloved’?”
After months of reporting, Courtney Rubin landed The Big Scoop: In her feature for Marker, Rubin wrote about the spectacular rise and fall of Ample Hills, the beloved ice cream company born out of Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood, which had all the trappings of a corporate fairy tale — $19 million in funding, a deal with Disney, and a cultlike following — before its implosion; the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last March, just shy of its 10th anniversary.
The brainchild of married co-founders, Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna, the ice cream company had ambitious expansion plans with dreams of taking over the $11 billion ice cream industry with flavors like Ooey Gooey Butter Cake and Salted Crack’d Caramel and receiving personal endorsement from Oprah. How did it all fall apart? “Interviews with Smith and Cuscuna, along with more than a dozen employees, from scoopers to executives, reveal the perils of what can happen when a hot startup puts growth ahead of business fundamentals,” writes Rubin.
Marker readers weighed in with their own diagnosis of the shocking meltdown: “An ice cream company — no matter how delicious, which Ample Hills was — has a fixed marginal cost,” argues reader Simon Robb. “There’s really no lesson about the perils of startups chasing growth here — it’s just a disappointing example of scaling a traditional business without good unit economics.”
“I can’t imagine anybody attempting all of this growth at once, without carefully managing it in the era of ‘Shark Tank,’ ‘The Profit,’ ‘The Startup’ podcast, and NPR’s ‘How I Built This,’” commented reader Iquo B. Essien. “There are so many people who have tried and failed in similar ways that I’m not understanding why they didn’t try to educate themselves more on what they were doing or at the very least seek sound business counsel. Everybody just stood around and watched the slow motion train wreck?”
Meanwhile, reader Sung Chang drew connections to another fiasco from the corporate archives: “This actually reminds me of the story of Cisco, when the board eventually kicked out the founders, because they had zero business sense,” he writes. “Sometimes ego gets in the way of business…Sounds like Zapata might be able to turn this around.”
And in the end, some readers just wanted to dish about Ample Hills’ ice cream: “It tasted like the ice cream that used to be made by small dairy companies back in the day, probably because of its high amount of butterfat,” reader mari reminisces. “I’m sorry to hear they’ve gone bust because they over expanded. I hope they hang on. They have a loyal customer base waiting to get back in line in Brooklyn.”