ITHACA, N.Y. — Sweet Melissa’s Press Bay Alley shop has permanently closed.
Melissa Kenny, co-owner of the ice cream shop, announced the closure of the satellite location on social media June 26. The Press Bay shop, which first opened in 2018 and primarily serves hard ice cream and baked goods, has been closed since April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenny said she and Matt Kenny, co-owner of Sweet Melissa’s, closed the Press Bay location to determine how to move forward with the shop amid the pandemic, but has since lost out on the space.
Sweet Melissa’s flagship location at the Shortstop Deli has been a staple in the Ithaca community since 2009, most notably known for its soft serve ice cream during the summer months. In 2011, the shop expanded its menu, including offering hard ice cream.
Kenny’s second location, How Sweet It Is, located in Trumansburg, opened in 2016 and served hard ice cream year-round. The Trumansburg location housed the hard ice cream equipment that needed to be moved to make space for a third soft serve machine at the Shortstop location to meet increased demand for soft serve. How Sweet It Is also had the space for pasteurization equipment, which allowed Kenny to make her own hard ice cream from scratch rather than having to use a pre-made mix under New York State regulations.
“I was so excited that we had been able to raise enough money for the equipment and produce such a locally made product for the Ithaca community and that we had found such an affordable space in nearby Trumansburg and that it even had windows in the retail space so that anyone could come and see at any time this entire process,” Kenny said. “I also was so excited that I was able to produce a recipe on my own that could seamlessly replace our previous pre-made mix. The initial excitement wore out though when very few people actually came to see this and or even responded to the unique way we produced our product.”
How Sweet It Is closed in 2018. After Kenny sold her pasteurization equipment, she was able to find another location to produce her recipe for hard ice cream and moved the operation to Press Bay Alley. Kenny said that the Press Bay location allowed her to offer a rotation of hard ice cream flavors and maintain a streamlined process at the Shortstop location with its soft serve.
“I’ve worked so hard to bring such a fun product to our area for so long that with COVID-19 abruptly bringing it all to an end, I can’t imagine what my future holds for myself with Sweet Melissa’s, I’m just so tired,” Kenny said. “I can’t imagine that I’ll be able to produce our hard ice cream anymore without this retail source. I worry for others in such a select and small production industries, as we’ve already lost such specially made and family produced products in general throughout the years.”
Kenny said that she was planning to focus the Press Bay space on chocolate and sweets during the winter season and only sell ice cream during the summer months since sales were slow in the winter.
“Our hard ice cream has never been even close to sustainable and has always relied on our soft serve sales to keep it going,” she said.
The Shortstop location has been open since mid-May with a limited menu, window service and social distancing guidelines in place. In March, Kenny launched a fundraiser to offset the costs of Sweet Melissa’s delayed opening, which was originally slated for the end of March. Kenny raised over $7,000, which also helped with renovations to the Shortstop location and recoveries from the Trumansburg loss. Donations have closed since the Shortstop location opened, but Kenny said that she is looking forward to using the same system in the future for other fundraisers in the community.
Since the Shortstop location has reopened, Kenny said that there has been a good response from the community, but not near the sales compared to normal years.
“We’re super grateful for our regulars who’ve continued to come over and over again,” she said. “It’s our family’s only source of income. It has been incredibly stressful.”