Ample Hills founders will churn ice cream again in return to Prospect Heights

Brian Smith and his wife Jackie Cuscuna will open a new ice cream shop in Prospect Heights this summer.
File photo courtesy of Ample Hills

The duo behind the cult-favorite ice cream parlor Ample Hills are reopening their recipe books this summer with a new creamery in Prospect Heights — building out a space focused on the social aspect of ice cream. 

“It’s really based around gathering, being social and passing the time together,” said Jackie Cuscuna, one-half of the husband-wife duo who first launched Ample Hills in 2011. 

Cuscuna and Brian Smith — who sold Ample Hills in June after filing for bankruptcy — said they were delighted to adventure out on the newest iteration of their passion for frozen sweet treats, which they’ve aptly called “The Social.” 

“It’s not every day and it’s not everybody who gets that chance to do it again and try to learn from your mistakes and do it right,” Smith said. ”As Ample Hills grew we kind of got further away… from the creative life force of what started it.” 

The new space will open on Washington Avenue, just two blocks from the Brooklyn Museum, and will allow the ice cream maestros to churn their recipes in-house — going back to the basics to make creamier, more flavorful ice cream than what they served before. 

“We had gotten a little complacent with the base recipes and formula that we were using and hadn’t sort of considered that there might be a way to make the ice cream even creamier and even smoother,” Smith said. “We’ve really gone back and sort of broken down the recipes and changed them.”

And for longtime fans, the duo is even improving some old Ample Hills favorites to serve in the new space, they said — including an ode to their signature Ooey Gooey Butter Cake flavor. 

“We have figured out a way to do something that is even ooeyer and gooeyer than that,” Smith said. 

As a tribute to their name, the Social, the business owners plan to offer a new flavor each month that will raise awareness about different causes — similarly to how ice cream socials were often the setting for fundraising events and community meetings. 

“Our name,  the Social, is really a nod to the ice cream social,” Cuscuna said. “Ice cream socials in the past were parties, parties with a purpose, to raise money for a cause.” 

This time around, the duo will also offer more than just ice cream — with a seltzer maker for egg creams, and sodas made from their homemade syrups. 

“We will have a seltzer arm on the counter so we can make those drinks from scratch, which is something we always wanted to do at Ample Hills but were never able to quite get around to,” Smith said. 

The new location near St. John’s Place will also be open longer than their former Ample Hills locations, with coffee and donut offerings in the mornings to capture a coffee shop vibe during the early business hours.

“It’s another way to gather at your local coffee shop,” Cuscuna said. “We never sold that much coffee at Ample Hills because we didn’t open until the afternoon.” 

In another transition in their former endeavor, named after the rolling hills described by the renowned author Walt Whitman, Smith said Social will have a brownstone Brooklyn theme as opposed to Ample Hills rural aesthetic. 

“This is going to be much more of a Sesame Street urban neighborhood vibe and feel,” he said. “It will still be heavily illustrated… but it will be much more brownstone Brooklyn aesthetic.”

The pair is planning a slew of programming for the space, such as open mic nights and game nights, and also offer space for parties and private events. 

“We have really built around that concept of the monthly ice cream social and treat that in the same way for birthday parties and ice cream classes,” Smith said.