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New ice cream shop in Columbia Falls 'a really sweet partnership'

by BRET ANNE SERBIN
Daily Inter Lake | August 29, 2021 12:00 AM

The new Sweet Retreat Creamery is an ice cream oasis in Columbia Falls.

The four co-owners of the new business wanted to fill the frozen treat gap they saw in their town.

"We thought about, 'What are we missing here?'" said Bruce Crockett, who runs the creamery with his wife Jessica, and their friends, Lee and Tiffany Davis.

They opened the shop in July in the Falls Station commercial plaza.

None of the four owners had any experience in the food service industry before starting the business. Only Bruce Crockett, a pastor, had some relevant experience from making homemade ice cream.

But once they set their minds to it, they quickly got up to speed.

The Crocketts attended Scoop School in St. Louis, a training program that explains the "ins and outs" of the ice cream industry.

Through the class, they learned to make various frozen desserts, navigate regulations and manage the business side of the enterprise.

Jessica Crockett said their biggest takeaway from Scoop School was the importance of finding a local dairy. Through the course, the couple learned there's a strict requirement that American premium ice cream have 14% to 16% butter fat content, so access to fresh dairy products is a must.

Lucky for them, Kalispell Kreamery agreed to team up.

"It was a major blessing for us," Jessica Crockett said. "It's a really sweet partnership."

They paired the beloved local product with their newfound ice cream knowledge, then added some personal touches to their offerings.

Three of the four partners hail from Mississippi, so they incorporated some Southern tradition into their ice cream shop. One of their unique flavors is maple bourbon butter pecan.

The Crocketts moved to Montana five years ago to start Gateway Church, and the Davis family joined them this spring. Naturally, they put some classic local flavors on their menu.

Their most popular option right now is huckleberry cheesecake, and next month they will add Flathead cherry as well.

They also carry flavors that might not be so familiar. For instance, there's "Cookie Monster," a bright blue cotton candy base loaded with cookie dough and Oreos. The eye-catching blue coloring for this flavor — and all of their ice creams — actually comes from a plant.

Cake batter, made with real cake pieces, is another popular choice at Sweet Retreat. Java chip, meanwhile, is a favorite among the owners.

They plan to offer six permanent flavors and two seasonally rotating options, as well as at least one sorbet offering.

In addition to the ice cream itself, another specialty at Sweet Retreat is the waffle cones. They're made fresh every hour.

Customers seem responsive to the new creamery so far. "People in Columbia Falls are excited to have some good ice cream," Lee Davis observed.

But the Sweet Retreat crew isn't looking to bring their ice cream to other parts of the valley anytime soon.

They said it's possible they could eventually expand their menu or open a food truck, but their intent right now is to keep a small menu in one centralized location.

"We're focused on Columbia Falls," Tiffany Davis said.

Sweet Retreat Creamery is located at 734 Ninth St. W. It's open from noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at 406-758-4459 or bserbin@dailyinterlake.com.

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Co-owner Bruce Crockett holds up a scoop of java chip ice cream at the new Sweet Retreat Creamery in Columbia Falls. (Courtesy photo)

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Ice cream flavors like "Cookie Monster" are made with Kalispell Kreamery dairy and plant-based coloring at the new Sweet Retreat Creamery in Columbia Falls. (Courtesy photo)

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Co-owners Lee Davis, left, and Bruce Crockett make a batch of ice cream at the new Sweet Retreat Creamery in Columbia Falls. (Courtesy photo)