Nightingale Ice Cream Sandwiches is building itself a bigger nest.
And as the Richmond-grown ice cream maker grows, Roanoke-based Blue Cow Ice Cream Co. recently opened a new location in the West End.
Nightingale is planning to expand its production space by another 5,000 square feet at Hatch Kitchen, a food-and-beverage incubator at 2601 Maury St. near Manchester.
Nightingale operates out of about 10,000 square feet at Hatch. It plans to be making use of the new space starting in October.
With the expansion the company expects to double or triple its production, which is currently between 60,000 and 70,000 ice cream sandwiches per week, by next spring.
The impending increase in ice cream sandwiches comes as Nightingale sets its sights on further expansion to new markets.
“We have a lot on our plate with new distribution and new customers and opening up in new states,” said Xavier Meers, who co-owns Nightingale with wife Hannah Pollack.
The company is looking to expand into retailers on the West Coast, in New England and in Florida. Nightingale is primarily interested in seeing its sandwiches on the shelves of small grocery chains and neighborhood markets in those areas.
“We have a lot of requests (from those areas) and the only way now is through online shipping. There are a lot of great markets in California and the West Coast,” Pollack said. “The weather is great. It’s summer all the time and that’s always a plus for ice cream.”
Nightingale said it also has been getting a boost from promotional partnerships with fashion designer and model Nicky Hilton Rothschild and Duke’s Mayonnaise.
That yielded a Duke’s flavor ice cream sandwich with peanut butter, banana and mayo ice cream available in July. Its Rothschild ice cream sandwich is made of blondie cookies with Golden Grahams, vanilla ice cream and honeycomb candy. That sandwich is available through September, according to the company’s website.
The company declined to comment on the details of the agreements with Rothschild and Duke’s and did not share details on its expansion budget at Hatch.
Nightingale’s new additional space was formerly occupied by Hatch’s packaging service and its butchery, which have both been closed down, Hatch Director of Operations Shannon Conway said in an email. Hatch continues to operate its warehousing service and also runs Hatch Local Food Hall at 400 Hull St.
Nightingale also recently started to offer half-sized ice cream sandwiches in Walmarts and Fresh Markets.
Blue Cow expansion
Blue Cow, a Roanoke-based chain with locations already in Virginia Beach and Fredericksburg, recently debuted the first of what could be multiple Richmond-area retail spots.
It opened the doors Aug. 19 at 7017 Three Chopt Road in the Village Shopping Center.
The 1,700-square-foot space was formerly a Starbucks and is about the average size of the company’s shops, owner Jason Kiser said. Blue Cow has about 20 employees at its local shop and inside seating for 24 customers.
Kiser said the company is already on the hunt for additional locations in the Richmond area.
“We’re definitely interested in additional spots in Richmond. I think it makes a lot of sense for us and how we work,” he said.
The company also operates an ice cream truck in Roanoke but is still thinking about whether and how to use it in the Richmond area.
Blue Cow recently stopped offering delivery through third-party apps and won’t offer the service in Richmond. Kiser said several issues, from fees the company had to pay as well as the challenge of transporting ice cream without it melting in transit, motivated the decision. Kiser also felt delivery apps could be too quick to refund customers for their orders.
“I think we’re happier without it. I think there’s a logistical challenge with our product and delivery. It usually got there in one piece,” he said. “If a customer complains, it’s just kind of automatic. They side with the customer and the product’s already out the door.”
Blue Cow planned to open at the Village earlier in the summer but was delayed because Kiser said an order it made for dipping cabinets — those customer-facing freezers that workers scoop out ice cream to make the cones — wasn’t fulfilled as originally planned and the company had to scramble to buy new ones.
“I had put equipment on order in January, and when we were ready for it in early June, a couple of the most critical pieces had not come to the warehouse. It caught us off guard,” Kiser said. “There’s a seasonality to our business. It was painful to watch June go by, July go by.”
Kiser co-owns the business with wife Carolyn Kiser.