Slugs make waves at ice cream shop: vice president calls local creamery

A downtown Santa Cruz ice cream store’s online “thank you” video to President Obama and congressional officials prompted a personal phone call from Vice President Joe Biden last week -- and a flurry of public attention.

Penny Ice Creamery co-owners Kendra Baker, a UCSC alumna, and Zach Davis, a former UCSC staff member, spoke to Biden, who praised the video’s quality and expressed his strong interest in sampling the ice cream.

Baker, 31 (Crown '01), was a language studies major at UCSC. Davis worked for the UCSC film department as a digital media specialist. Their new and already popular creamery makes small batches of organic ice creams and sorbets out of sustainably and locally grown ingredients, combining new and sometimes surprising flavors. For example, the shop recently featured celery raisin, winter squash, and bitter caramel flavors.

Baker and Davis were able to get a loan to start up their business after the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Their successful application prompted them to express their gratitude on a video they filmed on an iPhone.

The footage was edited and posted on YouTube. The online project was a group effort; Baker’s husband, Nick Gallant, a composer and audio engineer, provided the music.

Many media outlets including Yahoo! News, KGO TV-San Francisco, and the San Jose Mercury News have picked up the story about Biden’s phone call. The White House’s website also posted an item.

“We’ve had a surge of people coming into the store,” Baker said. “There was a line out the door for several hours. All of a sudden, people from out of town were coming in, and more people from Santa Cruz County who hadn’t heard about us.”

In fact, the business is so popular that the owners recently put in a 90-hour week at the store.

But help is on the way. “As we get busier and busier, we’ve been hiring a person every week,” Baker said.