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A popular frozen dessert is making a return by opening its first location in Toronto. Ernie's Icebox is the spot for artisanal ice cream sandwiches with fun and nostalgic creative flavours. Owned and operated by Julia Haist, Ernie's is very excited to be serving the community this summer.
The name Ernie's Icebox comes from a beloved family member in Haist's lineage. Ernie was her great-great-uncle whom, although she never met, had heard much about. Ernie was a gregarious, fun-loving man, enthusiastic about happy hour, friends and quality time. He was also the primary caregiver of Haist's grandmother, whom he passed his spirit onto. "Ernie's Icebox is a tribute to him and the spirit of, let's have a good time with the people we care about," says Haist. "Everyone has an Ernie story in the family and they always reminisce about who he was," she continues.
Haist started her business from home, inspired by others doing the same over the pandemic. As a big lover of all types of ice cream sandwiches, she ate a range of commercially produced to hand-crafted treats. With each, she felt like something was missing in the experience of enjoying the dessert. The structural integrity of the sandwich was always disappointing. Haist then successfully created a conveniently wrapped ice cream sandwich made with quality ingredients that retain their shape.
Initially selling her treats through Instagram and participating in a lot of farmers' markets and pop-up shops, the handmade sandwiches built a following. Haist's initial plan was to distribute to different retailers until she learned you cannot sell wholesale dairy products without a dairy plant license. After working in a bunch of rented kitchens, the two-person team came to recognize it was not only exhausting but not very financially efficient. In October of 2021, Haist shut down the business temporarily and went back to the drawing board to figure out the next steps.
In July of 2022, she opened her first store in Baby Point. All of the ice cream flavours, cookies and jams are made in-house. Inventing flavours is a fun and interesting process, and Ernie's has currently made twelve. "We try to create flavours that people are familiar with but also find intriguing and not what they would immediately expect from an ice cream sandwich," says Haist. The inspiration behind her flavours is predominantly driven by season, holidays or an already beloved combination.
The company is still in the testing process of how they wish to roll out new flavours. They plan to swap a sandwich out for a new flavour once a month. Five different sandwich options are currently available, including strawberry rhubarb and coconut key lime. More classic flavours like peanut butter jam and birthday cake seem to be staples for the shop. “We try to keep a standard of some chocolate, some fruit, something funny and funky and we will pretty much always have peanut butter and jam and birthday cake,” says Haist.
If Haist had one goal for the company, it would be to reach more people. A bigger staff and a larger kitchen would help her better meet the demand. The sandwich shop sold out of its weekends' worth of inventory on the first day of opening. "It would be great to have more locations, but mostly being able to expand and offer the product to more people because that is the main struggle right now," says Haist.
In a post shared on Instagram, Haist expresses her gratitude for the support from the Baby Point community as well as her followers. She regrets to inform her customer base that as hard as they try, they still cannot keep up with the demand. It is best to check Ernie's Instagram and make sure they haven't sold out for the day!
Ernie's Icebox might be new on the block, but they definitely have not been missed. Located at 403 Jane St Toronto, ON M6S 2E2 and open Thursday-Friday 3-8 p.m., Saturday 1-8 p.m. and Sunday 1-6 p.m. Once you get your hands on a sandwich, you'll understand what the hype is about.