SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM
Story by Jane Kaufman | Photos by Michael C. Butz
The official ice cream of the Cleveland Indians will be available as Pierre’s Fresh — piped from a soft serve machine that will give fans a taste of the experience of eating ice cream fresh off the line at the Euclid Avenue plant just over two miles from Progressive Field. Hard ice cream will also be an option.
In addition, Pierre’s will partner with Destination Cleveland to welcome fans and families to town for the July 9 All-Star Game. Travelers arriving July 5-6 at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport will be treated to free ice cream.
Not attending the game? No worries, the 87-year-old company is rolling out plenty of new flavors and products this season, including a line of ice cream sandwiches that goes beyond the traditional vanilla filling.
“We actually started at Christmas time, Chanukah time, with a peppermint version,” says Shelley Roth, president of Pierre’s Ice Cream Company. “It was just an in-and-out for the holidays. We’ll have it again this fall. We followed this spring with sea salt caramel, chocolate and peanut butter.”
Roth says customers appreciate having the portion control and convenience of ice cream sandwiches. In fact, Pierre’s vanilla ice cream sandwich is its most popular novelty in Northeast Ohio.
“They’re such a convenient, delicious snack — and people want convenience, they want portion control, they want quality,” she says. Each sandwich contains 150 calories.
And Pierre’s is expanding its Signature Collection, which Roth describes as its “most indulgent flavors packaged in pints.”
Aside from Exquisite Vanilla, “everything is loaded with inclusions,” she says. Think chunks and swirls.
The newest flavors are Honey Roasted Peanut Sundae, with honey-roasted peanuts and sea salt caramel swirled into praline ice cream, and French Toast, featuring maple ice cream, walnuts and cinnamon shortbread.
“And then we have this one called Peanut Butter Commotion,” which Roth says starts with peanut butter ice cream and is loaded with chocolate sandwich cookies and fudge chunks.
Coconut Almond Fudge Chunk features coconut ice cream and has almonds and fudge chunks.
Speaking of coconut, Pierre’s is introducing a coconut sorbet, which — like its entire line of sorbets, including chocolate and mango — is Orthodox Union kosher-certified and pareve. In fact, all but one of its 250 products are kosher certified.
And while baseball fans from around the country at the All-Star Game who visit Progressive Field won’t see outward signs of that status, Roth says in today’s technologically connected world, it probably won’t take them long to figure out.
Centering on Cleveland
As part of its pride in place, Pierre’s has rolled out flavors over the years named for Cleveland institutions: Sundae at the Museum for the Cleveland Museum of Art and Emerald Necklace for Cleveland Metroparks. It also named a flavor for The Ohio State University’s football team: Nuts About Buckeyes.
These homages are not just window dressing. They reflect a deep, deliberate and long-held dedication to Cleveland that Roth continues to build upon at the helm of Pierre’s.
“Pierre’s Ice Cream has always been located within like one square mile of our current location,” she says.
The story begins in 1932, when the Bassett family opened an ice cream shop on Euclid Avenue at East 82nd Street, at that time a thriving area.
Roth’s father, Sol, returned from World War II service and began work delivering milk and dairy products. He first purchased Royal Ice Cream Company, which, like Pierre’s, had a small ice cream shop. Later, after the two companies together built a factory on Hough Avenue, he bought out Pierre’s as well.
“And so my dad grew it, and it outgrew the Hough Avenue location and moved to Carnegie Avenue,” Roth says. “I came along in ’79 on a full-time basis.”
In the early 1990s, as Pierre’s outgrew the Carnegie Avenue factory, the company undertook a master plan, acquired 8 acres on Euclid Avenue and built a distribution center and office with plans for a state-of-the-art factory, which opened in 2011. Pierre’s recycles cardboard and plastic and collects its ice cream waste for a biodigester, which turns waste into energy.
“We’ve remained in the heart of the city of Cleveland – and at times when this part was not as desirable,” Roth says. “So, I think that’s one major contribution of leadership and commitment that we made a long time ago that’s had an impact.”
On the occasion of Sol Roth’s 75th birthday, the company opened a Pierre’s stand at Menorah Park in Beachwood. He had been a board member and supporter.
“We know that has brought a lot of joy to residents and their families,” Roth said.
Pierre’s has also shown interest in its city in other ways: sponsoring the VIP lounge at the Cleveland International Film Festival, contracting with Vocational Services to do upkeep at its facilities, donating surplus ice cream to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, donating ice cream to the Cleveland Police Department’s Let’s Chill Together events and for its Night Out Against Crime and donating ice cream to the Catholic community’s annual one-day FEST.
Where Judaism comes in
Roth credits Judaism with imbuing her with a certain vision as a corporate citizen.
Born in Cleveland, Roth, 63, graduated from Beachwood High School. She now lives in Shaker Heights and belongs to Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights and Pepper Pike as well as Celebrating Jewish Life.
“It’s hard to put in words,” she says. “Being raised Jewish with certain values, we’re sensitive and concerned to do wherever we can to better our community.”
Her parents, Sol and Harriet Roth, both had an influence.
“Both my parents were amazing teachers and also led by example,” she says. “I think there’s just an important message in that. There may not have been a key directive or ‘aha’ moment. I find it’s just do things that, if you can, help out and do something. Do the right thing.”
Roth was living in New York City when her father asked her to join the business in 1979.
“I wasn’t going to be one of those that came back and complained,” she recalls. “It took awhile, but look at what’s happening now. We have a lot to be proud of in this community.”
Baseball enthusiasts agree.
A survey of 130,000 MLB fans in 2017, in which baseball stadiums were reviewed on a multitude of metrics, noted Progressive Field got high ranks for ice cream.
“If you’re in Cleveland, the thing to do, apparently, is eat ice cream,” the Voice of the Fan Report stated. “Progressive Field has almost twice the amount of mentions of ice cream as the next stadium. The reason is Pierre’s, a local Cleveland ice cream brand that has been in operation since 1932. The most popular flavor we saw mentioned by name was ‘Moose Tracks,’ so be ready for peanut butter cups in your ice cream.”
As for the game, Roth will likely be at the office that day.
“Tickets are hard to come by,” she says. “I’ll probably be at work, where you can find me most of the time. So, I’ll have (the game) on the radio or on TV, but (I’m) very excited that it’s here. I love the Cleveland Indians. They’re just awesome. They’re great people to deal with, and it means a lot to our city.”
Ice cream is a quintessential summer treat. With that in mind, the team at Pierre’s suggests perfect pairings for warm-weather meals.
• Meal: barbecue chicken; Dessert: peach sorbet
• Meal: veggie kabobs; Dessert: peach pie with French Vanilla Premium Ice Cream or coconut sorbet
• Meal: hot dogs and hamburgers; Dessert: raspberry sorbet
• Meal: eggplant Parmesan; Dessert: Mocha Mud Pie Signature Ultimate Ice Cream, Emerald Necklace Premium Ice Cream or lemon sorbet
• Meal: roasted halibut; Dessert: Sea Salt Caramel Toffee Crunch Premium Ice Cream, Black Raspberry Chip Premium Ice Cream or chocolate sorbet
Lead image: Pierre’s Ice Cream Company’s selection of ice cream sandwiches includes the following flavors: vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter, sea salt caramel and peppermint.