Winter in the Midwest. Thigh-high snow, icy winds and oppressive temperatures have slivers of exposed skin screaming for cover. A little girl sits on a heater, bundled up in a blanket, enjoying the last lick of ice cream off of her spoon. Yes, you read that correctly––it’s not a steaming mug of hot chocolate on her lap. It’s a bowl of frozen dessert.
This is how Becky Sunseri realized her love for ice cream was serious. Her mother called her out on it; “How are you eating ice cream right now?” But, as we know, true love knows no bounds. It knows no seasons. There is no so-called “right time.” It always perseveres, and it never fails.
This is the story of a little girl’s undying passion for a treat, which she would later churn into a career and a popular California scoop shop by the name of Tin Pot Creamery.
The journey to her first creamery, which today occupies 855 El Camino Real in Palo Alto, California, was a windy one from the Ivy League walls of a Northeast university to eateries around the Bay Area, all along the way supported by a whole lot of sweat and grit. While Sunseri did write her first ice cream menu (now a framed list of flavor combinations) at age 15, she had no idea that handcrafting ice cream would one day become her career. After studying Nutritional Food Science at Cornell, she moved to San Francisco with her husband and landed at a desk job in client operations at a startup in the city.
But before long she was desperate to be in touch with her creative side. Sunseri began to volunteer at a farmers’ market, helping prepare for food demos. It was during this time that life presented her with a plot twist: a colleague suggested that Sunseri pay a visit to her pastry school, which was hosting an open house. Sunseri fell in love immediately; she sat down and filled out the application on the spot.
Thus began a season of long work days followed by evening classes, but Sunseri doesn’t recall feeling tired by the experience; she simply enjoyed what she was learning. Post-graduation, she began an internship at Noe Valley Bakery, after which––like so many classic San Francisco area startup stories––she took the leap and began her own company. It was a small bakery of sorts, which she operated out of her apartment, delivering to coffee shops.
But in realizing the strain of running a small business alone, Sunseri soon returned to restaurants to continue to work and learn. She amassed a variety of culinary experiences, including a two-year stretch at Facebook headquarters’ kitchen where much of the food is created with a range of cultural influences in mind. And in the midst of all of the flavors and spices, fate returned her to her first love––ice cream. Sunseri made the acquaintance of someone else whose capacity for ice cream was just as frozen solid, and they began to talk business. Eventually, the idea for what would become Tin Pot Creamery was conceived, and Suneri’s love of ice cream had come full circle.
The widely popular two-location ice cream business boasts humble beginnings. Tin Pot actually started as an ice cream of the month club, in which Sunseri was making and personally delivering pints. It was a concept that included a lot of driving, dry ice and directional advice from Google Maps.
After months of toiling and presenting plans to the city, the dream of a real, touch-and-feel scoop shop became reality in June of 2013. Opening at the height of summer, Tin Pot Creamery sold out of a week’s worth of ice cream in just three days.
Clearly, this recipe for a booming business has loads of ingredients, but amongst them all, the most important in Suneri’s is still love. Today, the little girl who once warmed herself by that heater during frigid Midwest winters so she could enjoy a scoop of her favorite ice cream has the opportunity to share that love with the community at Tin Pot. And in her own creamery, Sunseri never has to rationalize that it’s the right season for ice cream; the timing is always just right.
Tin Pot Creamery
855 El Camino Real #121, Palo Alto, CA 94301