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Blue Sky founders set to open Valley West store


Two scientists who ventured into the ice cream business five years ago will use their new Valley West Mall store to test products and ideas for company franchises they intend to sell in the coming months.

Ames-based Nitro Ice Cream founders and co-owners Will Schroeder and T.J. Paskach will open a Blue Sky Creamery Ice Cream Café this week at Valley West in partnership with Blue Sky Minnesota, the first franchise holder selling the ice cream produced using the Nitro Freeze process patented by Schroeder and Paskach. The store will be located on the lower level of the mall near Younkers, in a space that has served as home to other ice cream stores in the past.

“We wanted to have a company store again, and this seemed like a great opportunity for us,” Paskach said.

Paskach and Schroeder opened a Blue Sky Creamery store in Ankeny in mid-2002, but sold the store about a year later. At the time, the inventors wanted to have more time to focus on selling their ice cream machines, which use a fast-freezing method involving liquid nitrogen, to concessionaires and explore the idea of franchising. Now, with the paperwork for the franchising process less than a month from being finalized, Paskach and Schroeder wanted to get back into the retail side of the business.

“Because we’re franchise owners, I think it’s important to have a company store where we can try new things and do some test marketing,” Paskach said. “We’ll also be able to bring new franchisees in there for training.”

In addition to ice cream, Valley West Mall’s Blue Sky Creamery Ice Cream Café will have a full espresso bar featuring coffee from Burgie’s Espresso Café in Ames – a coffee company started by former Iowa State University basketball player Steve Burgason – and a variety of gourmet pastries for the mall’s morning crowd. For dieters, Paskach said the store will feature gelato – a flavorful dessert similar to ice cream but lower in fat.

“I have a feeling that our gelato is going to be extremely popular,” Paskach said. “It’s lower fat, has a smooth texture and its flavors come out and grab you. There isn’t gelato anywhere else in Valley West.”

Paskach said the store’s ice cream cabinet will have room for 20 flavors, but instead of all different flavors, he expects to offer fewer flavors but give customers a choice between ice cream and gelato.

“We’re not 31 flavors,” Paskach said. “Our product differentiation is not more flavors. It’s better flavors.”

Paskach said he has already fielded many requests from people interested in buying Blue Sky Creamery franchises. Wholesale is a fast-growing part of Paskach and Schroeder’s business. In April, they started working with Farner-Bocken Co., a convenience store and food service distributor, to sell the Blue Sky Creamery product to the distributor’s customers in its 16-state region. Paskach said his company has doubled its staff from three to six in the past few weeks at its Ames headquarters to keep up with the business’ growth.

“When we started five years ago, we were brand new to business, and bear in mind that it was a couple of scientists that just opened an ice cream shop,” Paskach said. “We’ve learned a ton since then, and we see incredible growth ahead for the company.”

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