All it took to sell Charli Bittick on the business of selling ice cream was a taste.
“My father, my husband and I had been looking around for a business we could buy into,” Bittick said. “We wanted to start with something small and see how we did.”
Bittick’s father, Todd Palmer, learned that the Rustic Gate Creamery in downtown Jenks was available.
“I had never been there before,” Bittick said, “but, of course, we had to try everything in the place before we made a decision. I may not have thought about owning an ice cream shop before, but this ice cream is just too good. We had to keep it.”
Bittick and her family took over Rustic Gate Creamery, 101 W. Main St. in Jenks, in January. The shop specializes in serving Ashby’s Sterling Ice Cream, a gourmet brand from Michigan.
“They use a mix that’s at least 14% butterfat, and they don’t whip as much air into it as some companies do, so it’s a rich, super-dense ice cream,” Bittick said.
Ashby’s Sterling Ice Cream comes in about 70 different flavors, although Rustic Gate stocks 16.
“We try to bring in new flavors from time to time, but the main flavors we carry are so popular that it’s hard to switch things out,” Bittick said.
The shop’s most popular offering is Superman, a fluorescent-colored mix of yellow (lemon), red (strawberry) and blue (bubble gum) that Bittick said “kind of tastes like Froot Loops” breakfast cereal.
“It’s something that you probably wouldn’t think of putting together, but it works,” she said, laughing.
Next in popularity is Oklahoma Pot Hole, a chocolate ice cream with a ribbon of dark fudge and cookie pieces.
Other popular flavors include Cow Tipping, with caramel-filled chocolate pieces; Eskimo Kisses, a coconut ice cream blended with fudge and chocolate truffles; Salty Jack, a caramel-flavored ice cream with roasted, salted peanuts; and Ultimate Peanut Butter Brownie, with brownie pieces and caramel swirled into peanut butter-flavored ice cream.
The family has also expanded its offerings, serving hot dogs and chili pies, specialty sodas and flavored popcorn from The Corn Popper, among other items.
Rustic Gate is one of three area shops that offers Ashby’s Sterling Ice Cream — the others being Candy Castle in south Tulsa and BJ’s Doughnut Shoppe and Soda Fountain in Kellyville.
But there is a shop opening June 8 that will offer a kind of frozen treat Tulsa hasn’t seen in several years.
Puopolo’s (pronounced POP-a-lows), 8931 S. Yale Ave., will specialize in Italian ice, a frozen concoction popular in Philadelphia, where owner Jim Eddy lived most of his life.
“It’s a cross between a granita and a sorbet,” Eddy said. “It’s nondairy, nonfat, without gluten or cholesterol.”
The idea to bring Italian ice to Tulsa was born about a decade ago, when the Eddys were visiting family here during a particularly oppressive heat wave.
“I said to my brother-in-law, we ought to get an Italian ice, and he said, ‘We don’t have that here,’ ” Eddy said. “My wife and I had always talked about starting a business of our own, and when we decided to move to Tulsa, we thought it was also a good opportunity to bring something brand new to Tulsa.”
Well ... not entirely new. A shop called Avalanche Ice opened in 2006 selling Italian ice, but it did not last long.
In addition to Italian ice, Puopolo’s will offer soft-serve ice cream and gelato — both of which have a bit of a twist.
“Most places that have soft-serve offer just vanilla or chocolate,” Eddy said. “We have a machine that will allow us to add just about any flavor to the ice cream.”
The soft-serve will also be part of what Eddy calls strati, in which flavors of Italian ice and soft-serve will be layered in cups.
While Eddy acknowledges that there is some excellent gelato available in Tulsa, Puopolo’s will be made with ingredients imported from Italy.
The shop’s name is a tribute to Eddy’s mother-in-law, Jean Rose Puopolo.
“We tossed around a lot of names that none of us liked,” Eddy said. “It was a son who suggested naming it after Mama Puopolo. We wanted a name that would have real meaning for us. Best of all, she’s still with us, so she’ll be able to be at our opening.”
James D. Watts Jr.