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If you’re looking for a sweet treat to help keep you cool this month, head over to local Heights ice cream shop, Fat Cat Creamery. Pop in for a scoop (or two!) and enjoy this delicious indulgence that’s made from local ingredients. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. For more information, visit www.fatcatcreamery.com.
She waits for ‘wow’ when you taste her ice cream
‘Fat Cat’ shop owner says the name was the easy part
By Lindsay Peyton | May 20, 2014
“Ice cream is my favorite food,” she said.
One night, she was sitting with friends craving the cold confection.
“We realized the Heights doesn’t have an ice cream shop,” Johnston said. “Jokingly or not, I said I should open one.”
Now, Johnston, 35, is the proud owner of Fat Cat Creamery, scooping up servings of small-batch ice cream made with local ingredients. The shop, 1901 N. Shepherd, is named after the late “Fat Cat,” who was her pet.
“He was the greatest guy, and I wanted to honor him,” she said. “I thought coming up with a name would be the hardest thing, but it was the first thing that came to my mind.”
The rest of the journey was more challenging. While it was only a whim that started Johnston researching recipes and learning to make ice cream, the venture became more serious when she rented commercial kitchen space.
“It ended up being a ton more work and a way bigger commitment than I ever thought,” she said.
Johnston was already busy with her job in real estate marketing, but that did not stop her from pursuing her plan.
“I stopped going home and started making ice cream,” she said. “I was probably looking for a bit of a creative outlet. And it seemed like the neighborhood needed it.”
Johnson, who is married, found it difficult to transition from a home kitchen to a commercial setup. She had to learn how to make big batches. Other chefs sharing the space helped her.
“At first, they all tried not to laugh at me,” she said. “Then, they taught me a few key tips.”
Johnston started selling at local shops, including Antidote coffee shop and Revival Market.
“The response was really big and really surprising,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow. I might be onto something.’ At least I had some customers. It was ‘go’ time.”
Morgan Weber, co-owner of Revival Market, believed in Johnston.
“She reminded me a lot of myself when we were first starting out,” he said. “We were trying to do something special and something different, and I saw that in Sarah too.”
Johnston brought her first batches in for review at the market.
“She would bring us little pints of ice cream for us to try to get our opinions,” Weber recalled. “From the start, she was paying attention to all the details that were important to us.”
Owning her own ice cream parlor was Johnston’s ultimate goal.
“But starting out, it seemed like an unattainable dream,” she said.
Then, she found the perfect spot – an old grocery store that was under renovation.
Johnston signed a lease a year ago and spent months preparing to open her business. She committed to Fat Cat Creamery full time last summer. She also hired a production manager, Courtney Blackmore.
The store opened Dec. 14. Now Johnston not only has a storefront but also her own kitchen to make ice cream.
“We do a lot of updated takes on the classics,” she said. “We have an amazing vanilla. I’m a vanilla girl; so getting our recipe right was really important to me.”
“It has a really developed, old-school burnt-sugar flavor,” Johnston said.
Other popular varieties are the Waterloo Strawberry Buttermilk and the Milk Chocolate Stout.
The shop always has at least 10 flavors, and the menu also includes ice cream sandwiches, malts, shakes and push-pops. The cost is $3.50 per scoop plus tax, with a $1 charge for each additional scoop.
Johnston is dedicated to using local ingredients and biodegradable packaging. She buys milk from Mill-King Market and Creamery.
“It’s absolutely exceptional milk and heavy cream,” she said.
She uses eggs from area farms.
“Using that milk and those eggs makes all the difference in the world,” she said.
Johnston has a number of loyal customers, including original supporter Morgan Weber.
“We’ve stopped in several times and love it,” he said. “She’s done a great job.”
Johnston likes her niche in the neighborhood.
“I love seeing the reaction of people when they taste something and say, ‘Wow,’ ” she said. “It’s a great feeling.”
Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. For more information, visit www.fatcatcreamery.com.
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