For nearly a quarter century Tickleberry’s has been a staple of the ice cream and fudge (not to mention kettle corn) diets of thousands of visitors and locals alike.
In fact, the opening of the Okanagan Falls business each year around this time is as much of a indicator of spring’s arrival as Groundhog Day and daffodils.
But there’s a new kid on the block, actually a couple of new kids, Tickleberry’s founders, Jeanette and Dale Hoy’s kids to be exact, Kelsey and Aaron.
Having managed the operations for the last five years the brother and sister have now purchased the business.
Along with building on their parent’s success, they are putting their own stamp on the palatable products the shop has become famous for, and even inventing a few new ones.
“It’s super important to do that (personalize the business)” said Kelsey, 27. “It’s been in the family for a long time but essentially it is a new business for us.
“Especially with the trend of things like the farmer’s markets, people are wanting to invest in their community instead of going to the big box stores, and we want to be part of that movement.”
One of the ways they hope to accomplish that is to start making their own in-store gourmet ice cream using ingredients from local fields, orchards, vineyards and, believe it or not, craft breweries.
Renovations are already underway to build an ice cream lab where visitors can watch through a window as the chilled products are made from scratch.
Facilitating that plan is the fact they now have the production knowledge and skills from one of the best-known ice cream programs at Penn State University they attended in January.
“My brother’s really focussed on incorporating some local wines and some local beers and I’m more interested in using local berries and fruits,” said Kelsey. “We both have different interests but it’s about the valleys.”
Some experimentation work has already begun and she reports the initial results as “awesome.” Can you say strawberry rhubarb crumble and dark chocolate stout?
Customers even have the option of chipping in a few dollars through a Kickstarter campaign to help build an ice cream manufacturing kitchen on the premises and in return get a token of appreciation from the Hoys.
“I think people need to understand why we’re doing it (fundraising),” said Kelsey. “We make money for a few months of the year and have to survive for the whole season with that.”
There is even an increment where those who want to donate into the project can leave an ice cream legacy of their own creation behind.
Tickleberry’s beginnings were actually in the Yukon, starting out as a jam company their parents – who were mining gold at the time – used to generate a little extra income.
And what’s in a name?
“My parents just said the bears are on one side of the berry bush and you’re on the other and so you just tickle the bears, and it turned into Tickleberry’s,” said Kelsey. “So I guess it (name) was an easy one for them.”
Early in its OK Falls history, Tickleberry’s was also in the truest sense of the words, a home-based business.
“It is so amazing to think that this was once our house,” said Aaron, 30 who is also a red seal chef and worked in Alberta and Vancouver before returning to the Okanagan. “The gift store was our living room, I literally grew up in an ice cream store.”
His sister added: “We definitely got invited to a lot of birthday parties that’s for sure.”
Just how much people from all over the world enjoy coming to Tickleberry’s can be found online where the business gets four and a half to five stars on just about every website reviewers post to.
In the winter months the store sells some of their sweet treats across the country. Aaron says when people see the name, they always have a story about coming to Okanagan Falls as a kid and returning with their own family.
But the real proof is in the pudding or more accurately the jams, chocolate-covered fruit and just about every other imaginable sweet under the sun.
According to Aaron, over the years for so many people are the fun memories people have of coming to the store.
“My dad explained that it is not always about the ice cream, it’s about that experience,” he said. “Those childhood memories of the road trip to Okanagan Falls and going to the lake and getting ice cream. It is those memories, feelings of what happened in your life.”
— With files from Kristi Patton