Just over a year ago, Gerry Kim and Josh Gertzen, the owners of the pair of Frozen Matter ice cream shops in Uptown and Washington Park, purchased Sweet Action, an established Denver brand with its own loyal following at 52 Broadway. While the pandemic postponed Kim and Gertzen's plans for merging the two brands, they've recently been putting those plans in motion.
"We spent six months just thinking about what we wanted the future to look like," Gertzen says.
After giving it much thought, the couple made a decision as difficult as it was bold: They're phasing out the name Frozen Matter in favor of Sweet Action. "At first, the primary focus was just getting all the stores through the pandemic," Kim explains. "March is when we usually get a big upswing coming out of winter, but not last year. Most of our ice cream was being sold in groceries."
Sweet Action already had a presence in the freezer aisles at Natural Grocers and Whole Foods locations in the metro area, along with a few smaller local chains. So rather than confuse customers by switching the packaging to Frozen Matter, the owners kept the Sweet Action name, but redesigned the labels to add a little more visual appeal. They also spent time updating Sweet Action's lineup of standard flavors to incorporate the same quality ingredients and housemade mix-ins that they'd been using at Frozen Matter since the Uptown shop opened in 2016. The bright-green coloring in the mint-chocolate chip, for example, was replaced by a more natural peppermint essential oil from Savory Spice, and the chocolate chips were swapped out for Frozen Matter's own stracciatella-style chocolate flakes.
Frozen Matter also has its own bakery to make cookies, brownies and other mix-ins for its ice cream flavors. Gertzen and Kim expanded the bakery from its original spot inside the Uptown ice cream shop to a full-sized commercial kitchen so they could bake everything for Sweet Action, too. Sweet Action has been known for its ice cream sandwiches and its vegan ice cream flavors, so Frozen Matter took over production of everything, reformulating the cookie recipes so they'd have a softer texture when frozen and hiring bakers from Beet Box, the vegan bakery that closed last fall.
Kim says that Frozen Matter has always gotten customer requests to sell its baked goods separately, and by retaining the Sweet Action name, the company will be able to launch its own line of baked goods. "The name Sweet Action is just more applicable to desserts in general," she points out.
The Washington Park Frozen Matter, at 1061 South Gaylord Street, has already been rebranded as Sweet Action, and the Uptown location, at 590 East 19th Avenue, will follow suit later this year. It's been tough getting contractors in to make the changes to signage and interior decor, though, so it could be fall before the switchover is complete.
Kim and Gertzen recognize the creativity and fun that made Sweet Action a success in the Baker neighborhood; The original owners, Sam Kopicko and Chia Basinger, sold over 1,000 unique flavors in the eleven years they ran the shop. "One thing we want to retain is that sense of fun, while applying our quality of ingredients to the ice cream," Kim adds.
Gertzen and Kim are not without their own sense of whimsy when it comes to creating ice cream flavors. They recently launched mango-chile, and there's also what Kim calls "the cheese collection," which included a bleu cheese and candied walnut ice cream and another made with goat cheese from the San Luis Valley and marmalade (made from scratch using bitter Spanish oranges, of course).
The Uptown location is also home to Retrograde, a speakeasy with an entry through a false walk-in freezer. While business has been limited over the past year, since more than half of Retrograde's seating is at its bar under normal circumstances, moving the bakery off-site allowed Gertzen and Kim to add more standard kitchen equipment and hire a chef, Michael Cooper (who previously worked at Bang Up to the Elephant) to expand the bar's food offerings. They also received a small business grant to add tiki-style greenhouses on the sidewalk to offer additional seating for Retrograde customers.
For those accustomed to the Frozen Matter name, it might look as if Sweet Action is taking over, but the reality is more of a blend of the two brands — a swirl of sweet things that will give fans of both something new to look forward to.
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