Little Man Ice Cream has built up its stable to include several locations: the original giant milk can in LoHi, Sweet Cooie's in Congress Park, the Constellation in Stapleton and the Old Town Churn in Fort Collins (not to mention the soon-to-open Dang soft-serve shop in Park Hill). With all that ice cream being sold, founder Paul Tamburello decided it was time to consolidate the production side under one roof — at 4411 West Colfax Avenue in the Sloan's Lake neighborhood. The space also includes an ice cream shop/tasting room at the front, which opens to the public today, July 6.
This isn't just any ordinary scoop-and-go kind of ice cream shop, though. The new Little Man takes up 6,000 square feet that's part industrial production facility and part Wonka-esque wonderland where guests can indulge in ice cream, sorbet, shakes, malts, sundaes and ice cream sandwiches. Buckets of ice cream are delivered on overhead conveyor belts from the kitchen to a "flight deck" where customers can order from a frequently changing menu.
"You can buy ice cream anywhere," Tamburello points out. "But if you want to make it in a brick-and-mortar retail establishment, you have to make it experiential."
So experiences are built into the interior design, including elements intended to evoke the feeling of being inside a giant ice cream churn, while real ice cream — up to 7,000 gallons a week — churns in high-tech equipment on view through windows overlooking the production kitchen. The factory also houses a bakery where ice cream ingredients are made and special plated desserts and novelties for visitors are prepared. Look through towering plate-glass windows to see pastry chefs baking carrot cake, making brittles and plating fancy ice cream-based desserts. There's even a vintage copper candy kettle from the original Jolly Rancher factory in Wheat Ridge.
Ted Schultz, the architect who designed the magical space, says reinvention and improvisation were inspirations for the overall design. "The idea is 'spin,'" he explains. "We try to be off balance on purpose — to have fun."
Much of the design focuses on the craftsmanship of electricians, masons, plumbers and other skilled professionals, Schultz adds, so nearly every surface includes striking and beautiful elements that stand out above and beyond mere utility.
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Walls and counters are all curved or undulating, light fixtures made from inverted hardware bins resemble enormous mixers, and there's even a curved stairway leading to the top of a wooden slide hand-built by Tamburello himself. Two tiled silos standing in the back of the space resemble boiler rooms or enormous storage bins, but they're really just the bathrooms, complete with heavy wooden doors made to emulate vintage freezer doors.
The Little Man Ice Cream Factory is holding its grand-opening celebration today from noon to 10 p.m., complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a special tour for twenty winners selected from visitors who come dressed as ice cream factory workers (creativity is encouraged), welcoming words from Tamburello and Schultz, a crowd countdown to the first scoop "launched," and live music. To make sure you're entered into the prize drawing, dress up and then nab a Golden Ticket when you enter.
After today, the tasting room will be open from noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m to 9 p.m. Sunday. Visit the Little Man Ice Cream website for more grand-opening details.