Local artisanal ice-cream maker Millie's Homemade ponders the challenges in expanding | On The Side | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Local artisanal ice-cream maker Millie's Homemade ponders the challenges in expanding

"Getting 100 pounds of peaches that are at their peak ripeness — it's essentially impossible."

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When Chad Townsend assumed the top spot at Garfield's Salt of the Earth, he thought he might finally be running his dream restaurant.

But it never quite felt like his, and he left just a few months after becoming its executive chef. Soon, he and his wife, Lauren, started Millie's Homemade Ice Cream, named for Townsend's grandmother. They slung fresh scoops on Friday nights at the Livermore, and started a popular ice-cream CSA.

But now, they're looking to expand — not an easy task for artisanal ice-cream makers. "When you're making a gallon of ice cream, it's easy to pick out 10, 12, 20 peaches that are perfect, [but] getting 100 pounds of peaches that are at their peak ripeness — every single one — it's essentially impossible."

And when you're sourcing ingredients locally, down to the eggs, milk and cream, it gets even more challenging to find year-round suppliers. But Townsend and his wife are committed. They're planning to open a storefront in Highland Park next year.  And they have launched a crowdfunding campaign to buy a $16,000 pasteurizer that will let them incorporate raw dairy products into their ice cream.

But to uphold their standards, Townsend acknowledges, they might not be able to expand exponentially, even to meet demand. "The inherent human nature is to say, 'I'm a business [and] I want to make money, so the more sales the better.' To maintain those standards, we'll get to the point where we'll have to say 'no.'" 

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