Sundae School is in Session

It’s that time of year again and Ottawa Life can’t wait to get back to school – Sundae School that is. Though it’s nearing the end of the summer season, we’re still in denial that the lazy days of summer are numbered. What better place to indulge our fantasy than a good old-fashioned ice cream parlour?

Lindsay Taub was on maternity leave from her job as a Psychotherapist when she came up with the idea for her business last summer. Living in New Edinburgh, she and her husband often took their new baby on walks, but Taub felt as though something was missing in their neighborhood jaunts. That thing was dessert; Taub decided that area was in desperate need of an ice cream shop. “It’s the perfect baby outing!” she says.

After hearing her grievances, her husband suggested that she go for it and take on the project herself. What at first was joking soon began to take root in reality.

Taub has always had a passion for food and was dabbling in food blogging before launching Sundae School, something she still does alongside her weekly foodie radio segment and, of course, running her business. “Food is something that’s very near and dear to my heart,” say Taub. “I get a lot of joy out of it.”

While her desire was never necessarily to own a restaurant, she has long loved entertaining and home-cooking quality meals for her friends and loved ones. Her career switch to entrepreneur was fueled by that foodie fire as well as “just being really passionate about building [her] community, bringing something to the community that wasn’t here before.”

Though fervent about food, Taub had never before worked with ice cream. “I wouldn’t say I’m an ice cream expert, unless eating a lot of it counts!” she jokes.

To prepare to run her business, she talked to others who had been through the experience of becoming an entrepreneur, soaking up insight and inspiration from anyone who would offer. “I think that that’s one of the most important things that you can do in that situation…just to help you sort things out,” she says. She also spent a fair amount of time getting to know the other businesses in the community. “We’re all in this together and we’re all offering a little something different.”

Taub decided that she would only do it if she could come up with a great name. Once she started thinking of things that went with ice cream, the ideas just started flowing and Sundae School was born.

The cutesy shop, specializing in – you guessed it – the creamiest sundaes we’ve ever tasted, opened its doors at 222 Beechwood this past June. The new neighborhood hotspot is instantly recognizable for the bubbly branding, in colours fittingly reminiscent of mint chocolate chip and maraschino cherries, as well as a neon sign over the doorway promising ice cream.

The first thing that Taub worked on when hatching the plans for Sundae School was the menu. “A lot of people, when I was at that stage, were giving me tons of suggestions and I got a lot of inspiration from that; it was really really fun,” she explains.

To test drive her product, Taub organized a focus group composed mainly of her friends’ teenage kids. “A bunch of them came over to my house one night and we did some sundae taste testing,” she laughs. “I had them write notes with their feedback. Everyone said yes to that; who’s going to say no to eating ice cream?”

The final school house specials are decreed in white chalk, a list of kooky combos with punny names inspired by schoolyard lingo. Taste one of the elaborate creations on offer (the Class Pet is their number one seller) or try out “free play” and make your own, with toppings like popcorn, nerds or hot fudge homemade in-house. For those who like to live on the wild side, order a float – an experience in and of itself.

Sundae School’s ice cream is sourced from the Carp Custom Creamery, a local company she discovered through her sister-in-law. She chose them not only for their products’ top notch quality, but also for their proximity. “Supporting local businesses is really important,” says Taub. “I believe that we’re all in this together and I just feel a sense of responsibility to support local as a member of this community.”

The flavours served rotate regularly and range from simple (classic chocolate or cookies and cream) to indulgent (double vanilla coconut or black cherry). Taub intentionally included a few dairy-free options in the mix, even before many of her customers started asking for it, so that everyone could enjoy their treats. Her personal favourite flavour? Cappuccino served on a sugar cone. “I just love the combo of the slightly bitter creamy ice cream with the sweet, crunchy cone.”

The decor is simultaneously modern and retro, with floor to ceiling windows casting a natural light over vintage decor. “It was fortuitous that I saw the space and I loved it…it lent itself well to the vision that I had,” says Taub, referencing the concrete floor and a statement wall on one side of the room painted a bold shade of teal before it’s occupant had even arrived. She went all out with the scholarly theme, working with Jelle De Roeck from Linebox to outfit the space as though it were a “hip urban classroom” in beanbag chairs, children’s toys, repurposed school chairs and tables with metal hairpin legs. The serving counter was even styled to resemble a traditional teacher’s desk, complete with mismatched knobs.

While the interior is pleasantly quaint, the old-timey vibe is given a contemporary spin. The corners of the wood tables are coated in a slash of pastel paint. The old-school chalkboards are in sharp contrast with the high-tech iPad cash system.

In the future, Taub hopes that Sundae School will adapt as it continues to serve great ice cream. “Someone told me before starting this business that your customers will determine much of what you offer and it’s so true,” she states. “We’re always open to hearing people’s suggestions. We’re always sort of on the lookout for what we can do next…I just want to keep the people in the community happy. That’s our biggest goal.”

Taub’s favourite part about running her business is seeing kids, or people in general, come into the shop and get really excited about all the toppings and flavours. “It just happened earlier today; a group was here for the first time. They just walked in with huge smiles on their faces and were looking around like ‘oh my gosh, this is fun!’,” she smiles. “That’s really exciting, just seeing the joy that it brings people because ice cream is such a treat. Everybody loves it and it makes you feel like a kid again.”