AN INTRIGUING IDEA
While vacationing in Breckenridge, Colorado, in early 2019, Stefanie McCain and her daughters stopped by a store offering rolled ice cream. Her husband, Jerry Salinas, opted to shop around nearby instead, but as he gathered with the rest of the family finishing their sweet, icy treats, they were all intrigued by the familiar dessert in a new form. “If this place could sell us ice cream when it’s 7 degrees out, we could probably make this work in Abilene,” Stefanie joked.
As the family vacation continued, however, so did the talk of, “What if… ” they were to open their own rolled ice cream business back home.
“We just kept having ideas,”Jerry said.“By dinner,we knew we had to get our ideas written down, and we couldn’t find anything to write on, so we pulled out our airline confirmation papers and took notes on that. We came up with the name Roll Shack and decided to name everything on the menu after our pets and horses.”
Jerry and Stefanie returned to Abilene after vacation and started looking at locations to buy or rent and ordered a griddle – a necessary rolled ice cream appliance that flash freezes liquids, cooling as low as -22 degrees.
For months, Jerry and Stephanie used the griddle at their house to experiment. Birthday parties and dinner guests were suddenly test kitchen opportunities. A working book of recipes chronicled their experiments and contained ratings and feed- back from friends and families.
“One night at dinner, one of our daughters said ‘we need a banana pudding ice cream,’” Jerry recalled. “I told her, ‘go to the store and get bananas and vanilla wafers.’The recipe got five stars that night.”
The couple discovered some recipes that tasted good but wouldn’t roll properly and some that rolled beautifully but didn’t taste good. Trial and error paid off, however, and their small-batch recipe experiments led to today – creating 20 one-gallon batches from scratch each day.
FROM BRECKENRIDGE TO BLACK FRIDAY
On Black Friday of 2019, 11 months after the Breckenridge vacation that started it all, Roll Shack officially opened its doors in Abilene and was welcomed warmly, despite the dropping of degrees.
“I had no idea people liked ice cream so much in winter,” Stefanie said. “It’s really been beyond our expectations with how busy it is.”
That busyness is increasing along with the temperatures, and one challenge Jerry and Stefanie faced was the wait time resulting from a lot of people and a longer than usual time to create each order.
“We’re not just scooping ice cream out of a bucket,” Jerry said.
Rolling ice cream involves pouring a liquid base onto the Arctic Griddle. The cream base is then mixed with spatulas as it freezes, and various fresh ingredients can be added to transform into the signature flavors. The ice cream is then spread in a thin layer and rolled into individual rolls, placed in a cup and topped. That process takes about five min- utes even when working quickly. To meet the demand, Jerry and Stefanie have continued streamlining the process, including adding more griddles.
A sign out front gives customers an idea of the wait ahead of them, and while it may have deterred some would-be consumers, Jerry said those who brave the wait consistently report the tasty treat is worth the time.
PETS AND PERSONALITIES
Each of the eight flavors on the Roll Shack menu is named for one of the Salinas pets, including dogs, horses and a cat. Flavors are intentionally matched with the personality of the pet. Levi, a dachshund, is the namesake of the most popular menu item – classic cookies and cream. Other fan favorites include The Tito (an espresso and chocolate mix), The Rita (mint and cookies and cream), and The Annie (strawberries and graham crackers).
“We’ve noticed different demographics order different things,” Jerry said. “Older folks like chocolate and caramel, younger kids like the cereal flavors, and teenagers want to make up their own.”
Regardless of flavor preference, the Salinas family hopes all ages will appreciate the quality and uniqueness of the treat. Their recipe and rolling process results in smaller ice crystals and less air in the cream mixture to create more intense flavors and a smoother consistency. All their liquid base recipes are original, made from scratch, and have no preservatives or fillers.
This family business requires all hands on deck since both Jerry and Stefanie have their own day jobs – Jerry is Operations Manager for Team One Logistics for UPS, and Stefanie is an obstetrician/gynecologist with practices in Abilene and Early, Texas. Stefanie serves as the food manager for Roll Shack and handles finances. Jerry is in the store more regularly and handles day-to-day management. Olivia McCain, a sophomore at Southwestern University, takes care of social media and scheduling. Hannah McCain, a phlebotomist at Abilene Regional Medical Center, helps with day-to-day operations and manages the point of service system.
The family atmosphere isn’t just about their family, however. The families who come in have given them a new perspective in their business venture.
“One surprising thing has been some of the experiences we’ve had with customers,” Stefanie said. “We had a boy who had never been able to have ice cream before, but because we have a dairy-free option, he was able to have it for the first time. Seeing that made me realize this is a little more than just ice cream.”
Editor’s note: As of press time, Roll Shack was temporarily closed during coronavirus restrictions.