Food & Drink

We All Scream for Ice Cream

On the Expanding Empire of Local Ice-Creampreneur Molly Moon

We All Scream for Ice Cream

Kelly O

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Of course Molly Moon Neitzel, the founder and owner of the very successful local ice-cream shop Molly Moon's, has always loved ice cream. As a child, while spending summers with her grandparents, she'd get a cone every day with her grandpa. Later she spent a summer scooping ice cream in her hometown of Boise, Idaho, then put herself through school at the University of Montana by working at an ice-cream shop called the Big Dipper.

"That's where I learned everything," she says, "from an awesome punk-rock guy named Charlie—I owe him everything."

But it wasn't until spring 2008 that she decided to turn her tasty habit into a career.

"I got burnt out on my job in politics and music, and one of the things that really burned me out was national travel. Music for America, the nonprofit that I ran before, had offices in New York, San Francisco, and Seattle, and during presidential elections we had staff in all the swing states. So I was flying to Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and San Francisco, and I just didn't really feel connected to a place. When I was starting to consider the ice-cream idea, I really wanted something that was local. I wanted to invest myself in a neighborhood, be a neighborhood institution."

So Neitzel took a year off and researched her idea of opening up a shop—and she decided to do so right here in Seattle, where she'd been living on and off since 2001, partly because she fell in love with the city the moment she moved, but also because Seattle loves ice cream.

"Seattle consumes the third most ice cream of any city in the nation," she says with a proud smile. "The number one is Saint Louis, Missouri, and number two is Portland. And in Portland and Seattle, we mostly buy our ice cream at the grocery store."

There was clearly a niche to be filled. When Molly Moon's first opened in Wallingford, people lined up out the door, around the corner and all the way down the block. Business hasn't slowed down yet. Restaurants, movie theaters, and local boutiques line the same street as Molly Moon's, and the smell of fresh-made waffle cones and chocolate sauce pulls in an endless stream of Wallingford's foot traffic—even in the middle of the winter or on a rainy night.

Part of their success, no doubt, can be attributed to the rotating selection of curious flavors that you have to try to believe. There's creamy, fresh strawberry ice cream swirled with a ribbon of balsamic vinegar reduction, maple ice cream laced with bits of real bacon, and pungent salted-caramel ice cream (which is heavy on the salt), one of their best sellers. All the flavors are made with fresh, local ingredients whenever possible. Strawberries come from the Skagit Valley, lavender comes from Sequim, and Molly Moon's coffee ice cream is made exclusively with Vivace coffee. Even the sugar is as local as you can get, from beet farms in Idaho.

"I think one of the reasons why we're successful, despite some people's complaints about the line length and wait time, is because it's an experience," says Neitzel. "You stand in line, meet your neighbors and talk to people, and when you get to the counter you can taste all you want. Then you either sit or walk away with your ice cream, and that whole process took 45 minutes to an hour. What else can you do in the city for 45 minutes to an hour for three bucks? I feel like you're buying the experience as well as getting an ice cream. I hope other people see it that way, too."

And they do—it's a recession-proof treat that's worth the wait. Now, after 11 months, instead of capping off the first year by simply being thankful her new business survived at all, Neitzel has already introduced a second location—the Capitol Hill branch of Molly Moon's officially opened last weekend in the Odd Fellows building (also home to restaurants Oddfellows and the Tin Table).

The new shop is small but very efficient. It's flooded with natural light and has an open seating area that can easily accommodate large groups. And it's got two ice-cream stations, serving twice as many people at a time as the Wallingford branch (a blessing on Saturday, as the line was still about 50 people strong an hour after opening). Despite the good smells and cozy seats, the majority of people crossed the street to Cal Anderson Park—where almost everyone basking in the springtime sun had cones or bowls of Molly Moon's goodness.

Neitzel also hints at secret plans involving an ice-cream truck "with some unique things to it." With the two shops and an impending mobile Molly Moon's—as well as West Seattle's awesome Full Tilt Ice Cream, Ravenna's newish-and-already-beloved Peaks Frozen Custard, and Capitol Hill's Old School Frozen Custard opening soon—we can totally knock Portland out of number two. Let's eat some ice cream and kick some ass. recommended

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Comments (25) RSS

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this place is a wannabe knockoff of Blue Marble Ice Cream in Brooklyn, which opened at least a year before Molly Moon's did. The odds of MM visiting Brooklyn on the "r&d" trip are about 100%. The long lines and 45-minute waits are the result of understaffing. Anyone who has waited in that line to ultimately find just one person behind the counter has got to be pissed. I wouldn't call that an experience. I'd just call it unnecessary.
Posted by Raputa The Beauta on April 29, 2009 at 5:33 PM · Report this
you've missed the point, rushy-mcrushyson.
Posted by whygooutifyou'reanasshole on April 29, 2009 at 8:12 PM · Report this
waited in line and loved it. nice to have a good ice cream place in capitol hill!
Posted by katy on April 29, 2009 at 8:17 PM · Report this
who cares if another ice cream store opened on THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COUNTRY. get over it. Biggie is dead. Brooklyn sucks.
Posted by whocares on April 30, 2009 at 10:34 AM · Report this
@Raputa: So what? At least Linda Dershang wasn't directly mentioned. Isn't that refreshing?
Posted by WenG on April 30, 2009 at 10:44 AM · Report this
For the love of God when is somebody going to start offering some decent vegan ice cream in this city? Even just a sorbet flavor or two that wasn't limited to fruity flavors would be enough!
Posted by that vegan kid on April 30, 2009 at 12:52 PM · Report this
funny, i owe everything to a punk rock guy too - his name was joe. and what joe taught me was to say "FUCK YOU way too expensive, bullshit, wait in line ice cream place".

get over it people and make your own. geebuz already!
Posted by sunshine and lollipops on April 30, 2009 at 1:30 PM · Report this
It's a beautiful sunny day, you can sit around and write hateful things on here or go get a cone and shut the fuck up.
Posted by Oh please bring the maple bacon back! on April 30, 2009 at 3:11 PM · Report this
God I hate vegans - I didn't climb to the top of the food chain to eat carrots!
Posted by Carnivore on April 30, 2009 at 4:58 PM · Report this
meh. don't steal recipes if you can't get the shit right.
Posted by bi-rite ring a bell? on April 30, 2009 at 8:09 PM · Report this
how is an ice cream place getting so much hate?

its ice cream.

Posted by fucking retards... on May 1, 2009 at 1:22 AM · Report this
I am so glad MM's has a spot on the hill - I don't get out to Wallingford all that often. FWIW, one can also submit flavor requests to Molly Moon's via their website - that might be a good resource for you, Vegan Kid (after all, more choices are good for us all)!

And a big echo on the sentiments of Who Cares, OPBTMBB, et al. Seriously? All this angst over an ice cream joint? I mean, the comments don't all have to be the stuff of roses, but please be constructive with your criticism. Bring something intelligent to the table or go to your room.
Posted by Equal Opportunity Ice Cream Eater on May 1, 2009 at 9:14 AM · Report this
Hey That Vegan kid, Full Tilt has vegan ice cream and paletas. And way cool pinball!
Posted by Yeah Ice Cream! on May 2, 2009 at 4:37 PM · Report this
so overrated. i've never understood the appeal of molly moon. is it really that successful, or just media hype? standing in line for 45 minutes for mediocre ice cream is an experience, all right. a shitty one.
Posted by ice cream lover on May 2, 2009 at 5:31 PM · Report this
you know....i heard that Molly Moon was a rapist.

No-Seriously though,
waiting in line???? helllloooo! and for what? a scoop of ICE CREAM?

i HATE how we are forced, time and time again, to WAIT for things....

and, and then....sometimes those things arent as good as we expect them to be!!! why are we forced to experience this?

and another thing....she knows some successful people! I only really support things that no one knows about, or are already lousy. the minute something i support starts to take off i'm like "eat a dick, reagan! dont force me to do this one thing while eliminating all other options!!!"

you are all RIDICULOUS! this comes down to the fact that she is a woman. if she was a man, she could be connected to fucking Marlboro and no one would flinch. So what if the stranger likes it? so what if she knows Linda? (the only connection with the shop. they know eachother)

seattle, you disapoint.
Posted by completely amazed. on May 3, 2009 at 11:23 AM · Report this
I've tried the salted caramel, balsamic strawberry, Vivace coffee, and birthday cake, and none of them stood out. The strawberry didn't even have chunks of strawberry in it. The coffee was ok, but pretty mild.

MM has great ideas for flavors, but I don't think they taste as good as they sound. The cherry pie filling cherry on the sundae was gross. I did like the hot fudge and the whipped cream, though.

I was impressed by how quickly the line moved! The employees at the Capitol Hill shop are really fast.
Posted by kate on May 3, 2009 at 1:14 PM · Report this
All of the Molly Moon's flavors suit my criteria for creepily delicious things. My only complaint is the early closing. No, not the fact that they close at 11 pm, but the fact that they start turning people away at 10:45. Several times, I have sped there with friends before going out to the bars only to be disappointed. The let down was not quite inconsolable, but close. ( I like ice cream a little too much)
Posted by Lara on May 4, 2009 at 7:04 AM · Report this
Let me quote this article:

"Of course Molly Moon Neitzel, the founder and owner of the very successful local ice-cream shop Molly Moon's, has always loved ice cream. As a child, while spending summers with her grandparents, she'd get a cone every day with her grandpa. Later she spent a summer scooping ice cream in her hometown of Boise, Idaho...

But it wasn't until spring 2008 that she decided to turn her tasty habit into a career."

I don't know who Megan Seling is but from the quality of her writing I'll assume she's Dan Savage's 17-year-old god-daughter.
Posted by hi, HI on May 4, 2009 at 10:32 AM · Report this
@11 It's the weather. Just about everybody is cranky as shit. It's not hate, its just goddam-this-winter-thing-already mopiness.

You should see some of the comments on the other articles today. Yikes.
Posted by SAD sack on May 5, 2009 at 1:08 PM · Report this
Frozen custard is ice cream's big brother.... it is creamier, dense, smoother, and yet usually has about half the fat of ice cream. It's a funny name, but is from like the 1950's... it is HUGE in the midwest and on the east coast...

I grew up by a place called Leon's and ice cream will just never compare for me.
Posted by Seesaw on May 20, 2009 at 3:45 PM · Report this
Ah, quit griping about the lines. If you read the article it seems clear that they understaff in order to create a long line, and thus create a "community experience". I applaud her for trying create a "community experience"; however I think most people would prefer faster service w/a place to enjoy to the ice-cream while they meet their neighbors. It is great that the Capitol Hill location is across the street from a park, it would be nice if the same could be said of Wallingford.

PS For a place with no line, and space to enjoy your desert try the new Fainting Goat Gelato, just 4 blocks East.
Posted by Hate lines like to mingle on May 21, 2009 at 12:44 AM · Report this
If you're into super creamy, dense and smooth frozen desserts bursting with flavor, you should definitely try Peaks Frozen Custard at 65th and Roosevelt. The chocolate custard is to die for and there are no people spending 20 minutes figuring out which flavor to try creating huge lines (since there are only 3 flavors every day). It's definitely busy but efficient.

Leon's in Milwaukee, is very good. I remember it well. My personal favorite was a small shop in Madison, WI called Cleary's but I think Peak's has them beat.
Posted by Jim on May 23, 2009 at 11:42 PM · Report this
We're talking about ice cream, folks. It's a $3.00 investment. I live on Capitol HIll, and this is the first ice cream shop to open up in our 'hood in years. For now, it's all we got. I'm not gonna hop on a bus and go to the Roosevelt district or White Center, or hop on a plane and go to Brooklyn for ice cream!

Molly Moon's may not be the best on the planet, but it is the best in the neighborhood. It beats Dick's by a mile. But what about the line, you say. With weather like this, and a location right across the street from an urban park, I'd be concerned if there wasn't a line.

Give Molly some cred! I only wish I had the cajones and foresight to open a successful business such as hers. Don't hate on her, because it appears she's doing something right.
Posted by Jake on May 25, 2009 at 12:58 PM · Report this
You forgot about Half Pint Ice Cream, the cart that is the star of the Capitol Hill Farmer's Market! I'll take Half Pint's butter pecan over Molly Moon's maple walnut any day! Plus, my friend is allergic to corn and asked a Molly Moon employee if they used corn syrup, and they do! They use the Snoqualmie Creamery's ice cream base, which has corn syrup in it - not very green or very fresh if you ask me.
Posted by Kjersti on May 27, 2009 at 4:55 PM · Report this
as soon as my wife read the menu in a magazine, we thought it was an off-shoot of Bi-Rite in San Francisco. ... either way, sort of over-rated, but still better than most store bought.
Posted by iscream4icecream on July 22, 2009 at 4:24 PM · Report this

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