In early September, residents along the busy Nine Mile Road corridor will have a new sweet spot to tempt their tongues. Marble Slab Creamery is establishing a new location at the corner of Nine Mile and University Parkway between the Albertson’s and Target.
“It’s a labor intensive process,” says franchise partner and general manager Mary Dillon about creating the ice cream for each location. The product is made at the store in four-gallon batches rather than made at a central location and trucked in. Because ice cream is milk based, she says, the sooner it is eaten after it is made, the better it tastes.
The result of the localized process is a “super premium ice cream” that is worth leaving home for, says Dillon.
The name for the eatery comes from the large slabs of marble positioned behind the serving counter. While there are scores of flavors to choose from, the idea is to custom-make flavors by mixing the ice cream with other ice creams or with a selection of toppings. The customer selected ice cream and toppings are blended together with paddles on the slabs, which are kept just below freezing so the ice cream won’t melt while it is being mixed.
The Nine Mile location will be the fourth location for Dillon and partner. In addition to the Marble Slab opened two years ago on 9th Avenue, they operate locations in Daphne and Spanish Fort. The new shop, however, won’t be an exact replica of the other locations; it will be based on a new design that looks more like a trendy bistro or bakery.
Creating an ice cream empire was not Dillon’s ambition, but was rather the result of a simple observation; “When I lived in Iowa, there were ice cream shops on every corner. But when I came down here, I couldn’t find hardly any,” she says. Sure that there would be a market for the Marble Slab product on the Gulf Coast, she and partner Gary Pizzati launched their first store though neither had a background in food service.
The Marble Slab franchise started in Texas and has spread to most of the eastern states and a few select locations in the west. According to the Houston-based franchiser there are 421 locations operating and another 120 in the works.
Dillon has little worry that the Nine Mile location will succeed. “Right now, we have people driving to 9th Avenue from Pace and down from Chumuckla,” she says. “We’ll keep opening them as long as there is demand.”