A scoop of summertime, sprinkled with nostalgia

Ice cream brings back fond memories for owner of Moorenko’s

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

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Laurie DeWitt⁄The Gazette
Susan Soorenko, owner of Moorenko’s, holds one of the homemade ice cream cones she makes at her south Silver Spring shop.

Perhaps this summer you’ll crave Cotton Candy Gummy Bear ice cream, or the more grown-up Pistachio White Chocolate ice cream. Maybe you’ll want a scoop of Fresh Ginger ice cream in a cup or Gianduia, an Italian-style chocolate hazelnut concoction, in a cone.

At Moorenko’s in south Silver Spring, just about anything is an option. The ice cream shop, which opened in October 2005, is gearing up for summer — anticipated to be busier than the past fall — even though owner Susan Soorenko will tell you ice cream is indeed a year-round treat. Not only is it tasty, it can evoke memories of years past.

‘‘So much of the ice cream industry is based on nostalgia,” she said.

For instance, she said, she and her brother, Barry Soorenko, a south Silver Spring business owner, grew up in Philadelphia eating pretzels dipped in ice cream and chocolate-covered pretzels. Now, Moorenko’s sells chocolate-covered pretzel ice cream that reminds Soorenko of Philadelphia.

And then there’s the peach ice cream that she associates with summer at her grandma’s house with her cousins. ‘‘That’s what it reminds me of. I know what I want my peach ice cream to taste like.”

The store itself can also evoke memories. Outside, Moorenko’s boasts a blue neon sign. Inside, tables are covered in oilcloth, even in the store’s larger party room, and tall chairs line a table that runs along a far wall. The oilcloth, she said, brings back memories of her grandmother’s kitchen.

Many customers also feel the same way, so much so that Soorenko said she started selling oilcloths as well.

Soorenko hasn’t always been in the ice cream business — for many years, she worked in the fitness industry.

‘‘It’s a lot easier to sell people ice cream than it is to sell them exercise,” Soorenko said.

She opened her first store, located in McLean, Va., four years ago. She got the idea after she and her sons took a vacation — to a location she declined to name — and fell in love with the ice cream.

‘‘The kids said, ‘You should find a way to sell this in Northern Virginia,’” she said.

One of her sons, 23-year-old Matthew Klein, remembers the story slightly differently. ‘‘I always say that we had the ice cream out there, and I said we’ve got to find a way to get this back. I meant pack a couple of pints.”

But his mom, he said, took it as a sign to do something bigger.

When it turned out she couldn’t bring the ice cream back home, Soorenko went to Ice Cream University in New York and learned how to make it herself, and does so in her McLean location. The ice cream Moorenko’s sells, which is ultra-premium, meaning it has more than 16 percent milk fat, has no growth hormones and the milk and cream are obtained from local organically raised herds. (And if you really want to be earth-friendly, she said, don’t go for the cup. Go for the cone.)

Many of the flavors she sells are unique, like the chocolate-covered pretzel ice cream and her cotton candy-gummy bear mix. But she also has many old favorites: your standard chocolate and vanilla, as well as cookie dough and Heath bar.

Klein is an advocate for the blueberry ice cream, and manager Todd Wuehrmann, 20, is a fan of the Gianduia.

Soorenko also hopes to ensure her store is unique and inviting by allowing local artists to display work on her walls, something she does in her McLean location. In south Silver Spring, she said, she knows there are many artists who could use the space.

‘‘It’s a very grassroots-oriented area,” she said.