FOODY FRIDAY: Getting the ‘Scoops’ on making great ice cream

Blueberry Cobbler ice cream is shown being scooped for a cone. - Photo by Andrew Mobley of The Sentinel-Record
Blueberry Cobbler ice cream is shown being scooped for a cone. - Photo by Andrew Mobley of The Sentinel-Record

Scoops Homemade Ice Cream, a mecca for ice cream lovers across the state, has a notable new owner.

Greg Hatcher moved to Hot Springs in 1983, living here for a number of years before moving to Little Rock. Often returning to Hot Springs to stay at his vacation home, Hatcher discovered Scoops, located at 4043 Central Ave., which opened in 2003, and quickly became one of the ice cream parlor's biggest fans and a devoted regular.

"Anytime we visited, we would always go to Scoops. You don't think of the best ice cream place in the world in a strip mall, but it's right by that Walmart strip mall, so everybody sees it -- so it's in a great location," Hatcher said.

"And it's just a little boutique ice cream spot where they make homemade ice cream. And every flavor seemed wonderful. It's not fancy, when you have a really good product you don't need it to be fancy."

Hatcher is the founder and CEO of The Hatcher Agency, a Little Rock-based insurance agency that has been the state's top-producing employee benefits agency for over 30 years, according to its website.

Beyond his agency, Hatcher has been active in the community, serving as the former chairman of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, Arkansas Insurance Exchange, the Little Rock Marathon, Baptist Health Foundation Board, Heart Ball, Heart Walk, Centers for Youth and Families, The Arkansas Wrestling Association, and The Arthritis Foundation.

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Hatcher expressed an interest in acquiring Scoops when the previous owner and founder of Scoops, Bill McCrystyn, expressed a desire to retire.

"I just said, 'I'll buy it and I'm not going to change the product at all. We'll just try to improve little tiny things.' If it's not broken and you've had an ice cream store that has been around for 20 years and made it through COVID ... it's hard for an ice cream store to make it that long unless they have a really good product," he said.

"(McCrystyn) said 'people come for one reason -- they love the ice cream,' so we'll make sure we keep that same ice cream," Hatcher said.

"Many of the recipes were old family recipes," McCrystyn said. He also explained the two primary factors behind the quality and popularity of Scoops ice cream.

"We make our ice cream slow churned, in doing so we don't incorporate much air into the product, as many of the less expensive ice creams do. The second reason is we use 16% butter fat cream base -- most of your store ice creams are 10 t0 12%," he said.

Scoops offers 24 flavors of homemade ice cream, everything from mainstays like vanilla and strawberry to more unique flavors like blueberry cobbler or hummingbird cake. The "Death by Chocolate" flavor is the bestseller. Also offered are shakes, malts, sundaes, and banana splits.

Customers can also look forward to upcoming seasonal flavors like pumpkin pie.

The improvements Hatcher is planning include Scoops-branded T-shirts and hats to outfit employees as well as for sale to customers and refrigerators in the front with beverages and prepackaged ice cream to go. A new logo has already been designed, as well.

Hatcher also announced he intends to open a second Scoops in Little Rock.

"So I don't have to drive to Hot Springs every time," he said, "Nothing finalized yet, but we do have a building that we are redoing on Broadway Street, downtown. There's room for a Scoops Ice Cream there, so that's where we're leaning towards."

McCrystyn is glad to have passed the business to someone who will ensure the continuation of his original recipes.

"It was a natural turn to have (Hatcher) take it over. He's someone who's interested in family and quality. I think it's great. He'll carry on the tradition," he said.

Q&A with Greg Hatcher

The following are excerpts from the interview with Greg Hatcher, presented in a question-and-answer format:

Q: Favorite ice cream flavor?

A: I'm pretty simple, I like chocolate chip and butter pecan. I like cherry as well.

Q: Go-to comfort food?

A: Chocolate-covered almonds.

Q: Favorite restaurant?

A: Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop in Aspen, Colo.

Q: Favorite thing about the Hot Springs area?

A: The lakes and just the relaxing, fun environment. Hot Springs just means fun.

Q: Advice for someone getting started in the restaurant business?

A: Have as little debt as possible, so that you can get through tough times. Empower all employees to take care of the customer, and the owner has to be around.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been modified from its original form to correct the spelling of Bill McCrystyn's last name.

  photo  Lora Passafiume, general manager of Scoops Homemade Ice Cream, holds a single scoop of Blueberry Cobbler flavored ice cream in a chocolate-and-nut coated waffle cone. - Photo by Andrew Mobley of The Sentinel-Record
  photo  The new logo for Scoops Homemade Ice Cream is shown. - Photo by Andrew Mobley of The Sentinel-Record
  photo  A caramel sundae at Scoops Homemade Ice Cream. - Photo by Andrew Mobley of The Sentinel-Record
  photo  A cup with two scoops of ice cream, bubble gum and strawberry cheesecake. - Photo by Andrew Mobley of The Sentinel-Record

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