By ABBY BIESMAN
News & Features Editor
Dominion Ice Cream, known for its unique vegetable flavors, closed its shop in the Blackstone Apartments on Nov. 25. In January, the company will begin selling ice cream online, and a make-your-own ice cream subscription program will begin in February.
Donna Calloway, owner of Dominion Ice Cream, discussed the decision to close the storefront, saying they have known they would close it for about a year.
“I looked at a couple things. Number one was the economy and the cost of running a business. With the overhead cost to run a business, a storefront and all, we can better control overhead cost by moving the business online, so that was one of the reasons,” Calloway said. “The other reason is we have a lot of customers in other states, and we attribute and thank Johns Hopkins University for that… So when family and friends visit and they come into Dominion Ice Cream… we get long-time fans.”
However, Calloway said making the decision to close the store was difficult.
“I’m heartbroken,” she said. “We’ve been in the neighborhood for a decade. You establish relationships. That’s the part of it that’s really hard to adjust to, and the same with the people in the community and the students — it’s been a lot of hugging.”
In the process of closing the storefront, Dominion Ice Cream is changing its business model. Its focus will be a monthly gift box subscription.
To make this possible, Dominion has worked with external companies to change their production process. Previously, the dairy part and the veggie blend of the ice creams were created separately and then blended together to create the veggie flavor.
“For the past year, we’ve been converting the veggie blend from a liquid to a powder,” Calloway said.
The gift box will come with powdered veggie blend and a shelf-stable dairy product so that people can make the ice cream themselves.
They will be able to blend the ice cream with a hand mixer for 15 minutes, and then freeze the ice cream for six to eight hours.
Calloway described her role as owner of the company.
“I’ll be doing more administrative kinds of things to make sure that the business is run properly,” she said.
Without the storefront, Dominion Ice Cream will change its marketing efforts and strategies to attract customers. According to Calloway, the company has been fortunate to be successful, so far, largely through word of mouth.
“It’s amazing,” Calloway said. “Because the product is so unique, it’s like an organism that people talk about, and it took on its own life.”
The company hopes to work with marketing companies and media outlets. It is also focusing on marketing to college students because the ice cream is easy to make in dorm rooms. Calloway said they especially want the patronage of Hopkins’ students.
“We did the Blue Jay Batter for Hopkins, and I have to find a way to still get that to students and people in the community,” Calloway said.
Dominion has been reaching out to younger children, teaching them the importance of eating fruits and vegetables.
“Because of the veggie part of it, we already go into schools, and we take kids-sized scoops with us,” Calloway said. “We talk to young people about the importance of getting more fresh fruits and veggies in their diet, and we use veggie ice cream as a platform to talk about eating more fresh veggies.”
However, Dominion waits until after the students have tried the ice cream to let them know it is vegetable-flavored. They then try to make vegetables seem enticing, considering it is a rather neglected food group.
“Dominion Ice Cream is ice cream with a cause,” Calloway said.
Though the business will be moving online, the website, contact information and telephone number will all remain the same. Hopkins students have mixed reactions about the change in venue.
Junior Kallie Chen also shared her thoughts.
“I didn’t think they had a lot of consumers in the first place,” Chen said.
Senior Nadine Abdullat thinks it will be sad for the neighborhood to see Dominion Ice Cream leave The Blackstone.
“It’s nice to see life in the lobby,” she said. “[But closing] makes sense because now they’re lowering their fixed cost.”