If you have been around Asheville for any period of time, you have surely heard of, if not visited the Hop Ice Cream Shop. As a matter of fact, this month they are turning 36 years old. Talk about about foodie landmark in the community; this is it! The Hop began back in 1978 when a guy from New York came through Asheville, loved it and decided to take an old gas station and make homemade, handmade, craft ice cream. He then sold the shop in the mid 80s, it passed through a few more hands, and a wonderful couple named Greg and Ashley took it over. Since then, and them; it has never been the same. Actually, Greg and Ashley worked for the 4th owner of The Hop; then through a series of events, ended up purchasing the business.
Greg was born in Berwick Pennsylvania, moved to California, and then to Kingsport Tennessee. He remembers going as a child to Asheville to visit the Biltmore Estate with his family, and the great memories they made. As a teenager, his family moved to the suburbs of Houston Texas, but he ended up coming back to Asheville to attend UNCA in 2000. In 2003, he began working for The Hop. Ashley was born in the suburbs of Houston Texas, moved to Russia at 10 years old for about 2 years, then back to Houston. She met Greg while she was in High School, and then moved to Asheville in 2003 to be with Greg. This love story has yet to be told! Let get back to business…
Greg was coaching at the time, and Ashley was the manager of the Hop. The owner decided he wanted to sell. Greg’s grandfather “Pop” has recently passed away at the time, and the family was in mourning and transition. Out of nowhere, Greg’s father Walt asked them “what do you think about buying The Hop?” It was a question that would change their lives forever. This was an investment in our community, a huge responsibility with accountability to their family, a life decision that they could not reverse. The answer was “Yes” and they began the loan process, a story in itself as it was right on the hinge of the last recession, and one of the last SBA loans given at the time. From December 2007 to August of 2008 it was up in the air. The loan finally came through and Asheville ice cream began to hike to the next level in quality, selection and community relationships. They started with 5 part-time employees, and have now grown to 30+ employees. They opened the Hop West in October 2010 and they are getting ready to celebrate their 4 year anniversary there.
But growth and the future is in the works right now as Greg and Ashley recently attained a new location that will be called The Hop Ice Creamery on 167 Haywood Rd – Suite 20; just a stones throw down from Short Street Cakes and across the street from where the new HOLE Hot Doughnuts in being constructed. I can already hear it… “Asheville’s Dessert District” or “Asheville’s Sweet Slope” as these are just a couple of the community themes that came to mind.
This new “Hop Spot” will simplify & increase productivity for both locations, allow them to increase their wholesale accounts, and provide their wholesale accounts with more volume. It will also enhance the customer experience and give Greg and Ashley the freedom to grow in many other directions. The location is ideal as it is a growing part of the booming West Asheville community. Some of their wholesale accounts include Katuah Market, UNCA, the Ice Cream Deck in Micahville, French Broad Rafting & Zip Lines, The Strand in Waynesville, Farmburger, Packs Tavern, Green Sage, and Sandy Bottom Trails.
The Hop is not going anywhere, but deepening their AVL roots, supporting the organic and homegrown scene, and growing their business naturally… as the opportunities arise from the hard work, team effort and relationship building that they have put forth. They will also have the ability to provide after-school tours for kids and families, showcasing the process, and tasting new ice creams freshly made right in front of them. A small bakery that complements ice cream may also be part of the future concept.
Greg, Ashley, and now also little Finn are staples in the Asheville community on both the business and personal side. If you have ever met them, you have met people with a community mindset and big hearts to back it up. The Hop Ice Creamery is simply the evidence, a big part of the evolution… their overall beautiful vision. And it all started with ice cream. Congratulations!!!