Written by By J, a, m, e, s, , W, a, g, n, e, r
Any true Braves fan has likely experienced this scenario at least once, whether it’s on the baseball diamond or — more likely — at concession stands.
Frozen vanilla ice cream — iced by cool, crystal-clear water — is not the icy treat that Atlanta has come to expect at Turner Field
But thanks to an innovative ice cream machine, you may finally be able to enjoy one of baseball’s signature treats at the home of the Atlanta Braves.
The store-within-a-store, the Level, opened to great fanfare in 2015, but it’s only recently become fashionable for Atlanta’s fans to talk about how great the ice cream is.
Dozens of varieties of ice cream — both house-made, including original versions of American favorites such as vanilla and chocolate, and more upscale flavors like Cobbler Bourbon Almond Cheesecake — are spread across the mall-sized countertop in a temperature-controlled glass case.
“Guests have to take a deep breath because they’re in a heated zone,” explains Jenn Reyna-Hodge, senior vice president of retail operations for Georgia-based Little Rock Ice Cream. “Most people walk by and don’t stop because they can’t stand the heat. This was an exception to the rule. We knew this was something you couldn’t miss.”
Reyna-Hodge has been in Atlanta since 2006, working her way up from sales and marketing to management roles in the food, beverage and spa industries.
“When we opened the Level, one of the main reasons was that it really was (Atlanta) fans’ number one request,” she says. “It’s just another reason for them to be excited about coming to Turner Field.”
A new path to dessert
Reyna-Hodge’s dream began in her native Iowa, where her passion for ice cream led her to open two small-batch chocolate shops. After college, she spent a year in Wisconsin working as a bartender, and in that time she began experimenting with a cold- and creamy-water-based milk-ice-cream option.
“That was the foundation of the freezer at my mother’s house,” she says. “To this day, it’s what still keeps me up at night because it’s the best ice cream. I love to see people smile when they’re eating it. It’s more than just a flavor; it’s something they remember.”
In 2009, Reyna-Hodge joined Frozen Cream Partners, an Arizona-based company that also produces all of Stumptown Coffee’s ice cream. There, she developed the concept for store-within-a-store Level, which she says became the first of its kind in the industry.
The tubing is pretty much what you find in most ice cream shops. Courtesy Little Rock Ice Cream
“We thought it was genius,” Reyna-Hodge says. “When you’re in a mall, ice cream’s not really the best fit. They’re not used to seeing us. It’s not what the mall would call a typical shop.
“The idea is that no matter where you are in the shopping mall, you can experience the same thing.”
And they say cookies and cream, and chocolate cake aren’t the only things for sale at a mall
Courtesy Little Rock Ice Cream
A fully stocked freezer, meant to mimic, if not exceed, an ice cream-pop machine, inside the Level’s refrigerated case has helped make this a reality.
The answer lies with the dispenser, a box-shaped device just like the ones found at shopping malls and specialty grocery stores.
“It all comes down to content,” Reyna-Hodge says. “You can pour whatever you want into it. And we’re able to guarantee a certain flavor level of the product on the front, so you’re not afraid it might fall off when you’re walking by.”
More than just ice cream