Rick Bickner could never find good ice cream. So he and his wife decided to make their own.
“I could never find good-quality ice cream out there in the United States,” he said. “I just wanted to create something I couldn’t buy.”
Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream, owned by Bickner and his wife, Vicki, was born in the late 1980s. It has since become a valley favorite, and luckily for outlying residents a new shop will open before summer in the heart of Wilson. The original Moo’s will move across the street from its location on Town Square.
“Moo’s 2,” as Bickner called it, will be in the same business complex as Pearl Street Bagels, Wilson Backcountry Sports and Nora’s Fish Creek Inn.
“It’s our little gingerbread house,” Bickner said.
Moo’s ice cream is unique because of what isn’t in it.
“There are so many preservatives and additives in ice creams,” Bickner said. “You can digest our ice cream because we don’t put in those fillers.”
Additives in commercial ice creams have gotten so bad, Bickner said, that they make people sick. So sick that people can think they’re lactose intolerant — even if they’re not.
“More and more stuff is being added, but we don’t do that,” Bickner said. “We keep things pure. We make it as old school as possible.”
That includes using cream, not milk. Cream is four or five times more expensive, but it gives Moo’s ice cream a smooth, rich flavor. Cream masks the flavor of other ingredients, meaning that more of other things, like strawberries — 22 pounds for every 10 gallons of ice cream — must be used.
“That makes us who we are,” Bickner said. “The only time milk touches our ice cream is if we’re making a milkshake.”
Moo’s huckleberry flavor uses ground, never cooked, organic huckleberries. Peppermint chocolate chip ice cream is made with pure peppermint oils, not extracts. Moo’s vanilla bean ice cream is made with actual vanilla beans, also not an extract. The cost per pound: $325.
Bickner tries to keep prices as low as he can. But even with a double scoop coming in at over $5, lines constantly snake around the store on Town Square on a hot summer afternoon.
“You are what you eat,” Bickner said. “You can’t go into a grocery store and expect to buy tenderloin at a hamburger price.”
In previous summers Moo’s has had 24 flavors on tap. The new location at 155 Center St. has more room, so 34 flavors will be available. In the smaller shop in Wilson 12 flavors will be offered, including a few customer flavors that locals can suggest and have created just for that location.
In the back, Bickner said, he has 85 flavors of ice cream in the freezer. They’d offer more at a time, he said, but keeping the store customer-friendly without bottlenecks in line can present a challenge.
Getting ready for the multiple moves is difficult for the Bickners. They’re still in the permitting stage to meet town code.
“All my days are running together,” he said.
Summer is coming soon, he said, and they’re nervous about not having a place to manufacture ice cream in town, especially with opening a second location.
They hope to open the Wilson location in mid-May, as soon as a final building license is in Bickner’s hand, and move to their new location on Center Street shortly thereafter — they hope before June 1.
The Bickners have to be out in early June because they lost their lease at 110 Center St. because of a redevelopment project.
But finding 3,300 square feet just steps away is a perk.
Moo’s is expanding into other markets. Bickner said Deer Valley, Snowbird and Park City, Utah, restaurants are interested, as well as other locations in the Salt Lake City area, and restaurants as far-flung as Elko, Nevada.
Bickner, a lifelong chef, also makes custom flavors for restaurants in town, creating over 300 ice creams so far. Apparently, it doesn’t take him that long to come up with flavors because he’s been “doing it all my life.”
And it pays off. People who taste the ice cream, Bickner said, are “going nuts.”
“They say it’s the best ice cream they’ve ever had in their entire life,” he said. “I’m just glad we’re doing it right.”
The Bickners like to keep it local.
“I like to keep the valley nice and have everybody enjoy the ice cream,” he said. “I hope they leave the shop with a smile.”