Shelley A. Sackett
Even as a kid growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, ice cream stood out among its dessert peers for Christiana Kroondyk.
“I remember biking to the nearest shop with friends and eating it after a quick trip to the beach with my family,” said the owner and creator of Melt Ice Cream, an artisanal ice cream line that now has its own storefront home in the former Salem Screamery location. “Ice cream was always a special treat growing up.”
Her taste for ice cream never wavered over the years, but in 2009 her interest changed from eating it to making it. While vacationing with her family, they found a newly opened ice cream shop run by a couple that sold unique and delicious flavors, such as lavender mint basil and maple bacon — “before bacon was a ‘thing’.”
When Kroondyk got home, she quit her Human Resource Compensation Department job, bought a personal ice cream machine, and began trying out recipes and experimenting with unusual ingredients. “My focus with Melt is making all the ice cream myself. I use local ingredients where I can,” she said. Her original plan was to sell Melt as an artisanal ice cream line at farmers markets.
Instead, when The Salem Screamery was put up for sale last year, Kroondyk bought it, “definitely something I envisioned, but not as quickly as it happened.” For a year, she operated the shop as the previous owners had — selling ice cream from Bliss Dairy in Attleboro, MA — all the while experimenting with her distinctive flavors and thinking about how she wanted to make the store “hers”.
“I wanted to change the environment of the store. We updated the inside a lot over this past winter to make it warm, happy and inviting,” Kroondyk said. While she spends a lot of time at the store, this year she’s more behind the scenes making ice cream rather than behind the counter scooping it. Still, she loves saying “hi” to the regulars. “Meeting and getting to know the customers and the community is extremely important to me.”
Equally important is her commitment to unconventional and all natural ice cream flavors. “Coming up with funky flavors is most fun for me,” Kroondyk said, noting that she only uses real ingredients. “My mint chip ice cream is not green,” she pointed out proudly.
Her goal is “more flavors more frequently” and she features four or five “Rotating Flavors” that change every week or two. Right now, customers have the chance to taste 18 “flavors to melt for”. The rotating ones include vanilla chai, anise with candied fennel (a must for black licorice lovers), green tea, and banana with caramelized white chocolate. Of the 14 “standard” flavors, however, not all are all that standard: potato chip toffee and chamomile chardonnay top the list.
With all these exotic creations to choose from, what unusual flavor is Kroondyk’s favorite? Without a pause, the maestro of the non-traditional breaks into a wide, little girl smile, and reveals her taste buds’ old-fashioned, Grand Rapids roots: Atomic Coffee.
Melt Ice Cream is located at 60 Washington Street in Salem. Hours are Sunday through Thursday, from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Visit meltsalem.com for more information.
“Artisan” is a term used to describe “food produced by non-industrialized methods, often handed down through generations but now in danger of being lost, according to the School of Artisan Food website. Tastes and processes are allowed to develop slowly and naturally, rather than curtailed for mass-production.”