Upon entering the new Sweet Peaks Ice Cream shop in downtown Spokane, a warm and enthusiastic greeting from employees behind the counter should make anyone feel instantly welcome. The shop has a fresh interior with wooden tables and dark blue walls accented with paintings of birch trees.
Recently opened across the street from Auntie's Bookstore, and next door to Durkin's Liquor Bar, Sweet Peaks is an ideal place to stumble into on a hot day to cool down with a favorite cold treat.
For owners and spouses Marissa Keenan and Sam Dauenhauer, the Spokane shop is the seventh location they've opened since launching their first in Whitefish, Montana, back in 2010. They've always loved visiting downtown Spokane and felt there was a niche to fill for ice cream in the core.
Long before the couple opened the first shop, they made ice cream in the comfort of their own kitchen. It helped that Keenan grew up in a restaurant family, and Dauenhauer had previously owned a coffee shop — they knew what they were getting themselves into with the business idea.
Keenan says the company focuses on sourcing ingredients locally, based on what's regularly and seasonally available. Each flavor Sweet Peaks concocts is tested by her and their kitchen crew before making it onto the menu. That process is always fun, because she and Dauenhauer have different tastes.
The menu at the new Spokane shop includes classic flavors like Wustner Brothers' honey cinnamon or coconut, and specialty flavors like strawberry rhubarb sherbet and pine and chocolate. Order your favorite as a kid scoop ($3), single ($3.50), single split ($4) or double ($5) in a cup, sugar cone, cake cone or waffle cone ($1.50). Add an extra scoop to any order for $2.
There's also an option to build your own sundae for $7 (additional toppings are $1 extra), or choose one from the menu, like "Honey Bunny" or "Black Bear" ($6/each).
Floats, milkshakes and coffee are options, too. There are also pints to go ($9).
Since I'm an ice cream fiend and usually indecisive, I sampled a handful of flavors before going with a flavor each from the classic and seasonal: cupcake and blackberry and lavender. The cupcake scoop tasted akin to birthday cake ice cream without being obnoxiously saccharine, which I loved. The blackberry and lavender perfectly complement one another, creating a new favorite for me.
While testing the generous samples of Sweet Peak's flavors, I noticed a beautiful painting of a bear on the wall, definitely giving a nod to that Montana vibe, which I later learned that Dauenhauer himself painted.
"My husband Sam is the artsy designer for everything. He creates the vision, what needs to happen and picks the different elements. He's done this quite a few times now, and it's fun for him, because he gets to do something a little bit different," says Keenan.
Keenan has already received lots of positive feedback since the Spokane shop's opening in early May. The big thing for Sweet Peaks now is to learn the ins and outs of traffic flow in downtown Spokane, and how to navigate rushes during various events. But Keenan's main goal is to maintain that welcoming factor that reels everyone in.
"The great thing about ice cream is that it's fun. We're selling something people enjoy. It's a treat. They're not buying a car, they're buying an ice cream cone, but it's still a big deal," she says.
"And if you can have happy music, scents like ice cream, scents like waffle cones, and you have someone ask, 'How is your day? How is it going? What are you up to?' That's the difference, I say, between customer service and enlightened hospitality." ♦
Sweet Peaks Ice Cream • 415 W. Main • Open Sun-Thu, 11 am-10 pm; Fri-Sat, 11 am-11 pm • sweetpeaksicecream.com • 474-9096