The Hop Ice Cream Shop: Past, Present & Future in Asheville

hop ice cream greg ashley
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.
hop ice cream north asheville
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.
hop ice creamery vision
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.
greg ashley hop ice cream asheville
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.
hop ice creamery west asheville
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.
hop ice creamery greg ashley asheville north carolina
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!!!

Eating My Way Through Asheville

The Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Village

Lobster Tacos in Sweet Potato Shells on Black Bean and Corn Salsa, Jicama Slaw and Chimichurri

As a college student, I have to eat on a budget. Well, I have to do pretty much everything on a budget. So, as I was trying to plan an epic Christmas present for my wonderful boyfriend, I realized that the college version of “epic” may just have to be a candy bar and socks. Luckily (or not so much), my boyfriend was in the same situation! After thinking about it for a while, we decided that rather than trying to spend too much money on items that the other may or may not even like, we would just go on a memorable date that we would both enjoy.

Well, I love food. I mean, I really love food. This is one of the many reasons I enjoy living in Asheville; I love trying new foods. Rather than just picking one restaurant out of the hundreds in the city, we decided to try five all in one night. As I said, I wanted to do something epic, and “epic” now meant that I would probably have to be rolled out of the last restaurant.

When planning the date, I wanted to hit some of Asheville’s best names, so naturally I turned to Ask Asheville and planned the adventure. Finally I narrowed my list down to the best diner, taco, sushi, tapas, and desert places in town.

My boyfriend, Jeremy, and I both run track for UNCA, and we headed out on our food excursion right after a workout, voraciously hungry. Our first stop was the Corner Kitchen, voted Diners’ Choice at Opentable.com, located in a quaint old house in the Biltmore Village. Since we didn’t know how much food we were going to eat throughout the whole evening, we decided to just go with one appetizer and, being the seafood fans we are, we went with the lobster tacos. And it was a great choice! The only problem I had with the dish was that I didn’t have 5 more plates of it. The lobster was buttery, melting in my mouth, and the savory slaw brought a little sweetness to the heat of the tacos’ sauce. That one plate assured me that I will have to go back to try the rest of the menu.

White Duck Taco in the River Arts District

Molé Roasted Duck with cranberries, apples, and lettuce

I’ve lived in Asheville for a few years now, and I thought I really knew my way around the city. Apparently, I was wrong. So, rather than driving straight to White Duck Taco – one of Asheville’s best taco eateries – I showed Jeremy all around the dark and quiet night version of the River Arts District. On purpose, obviously, we weren’t lost. But, we got there eventually. And the drive was worth it. I had never made my way to the little restaurant, but as soon as I saw the colorful chalkboard menu I knew I would be coming back multiple times. I love duck, and I love tacos, so the combination of the spicy duck combined with the sweetness of the fruit all wrapped in a tortilla was like a love song in my mouth. I was right about coming back to eat there, by the way. We came back a solid two days later.

Wasabi

Smoked Salmon Sashimi

My knowledge of downtown also is not quite as extensive as I thought, but after a couple wrong turns we made it to Wasabi, voted 2013 Best Sushi of WNC. As I said, I love trying new foods, and sushi is something that I have never really enjoyed before, so I wanted to try one more time. I love sashimi, so I got the smoked salmon so that I’d at least have something I would like.

Wasabi Downtown

Spicy salmon inside, peppered white tuna, avocado, crunchies, tobiko, scallions, and wasabi sauce

 Naturally, we got the most expensive roll on the menu, but it was well worth it. The salty, crunchy, meaty tastes swirling over my taste buds as I shoved the entire too-large piece of sushi into my mouth each time changed my view on the delicacy. Oh, and did I mention that I actually at the dish with chop sticks? This was probably my biggest accomplishment of the night. 

Social Lounge and Tapas Downtown

Hot popcorn tossed with shaved asiago and drizzled with white truffle oil

Social Lounge and Tapas is located, luckily, precisely two buildings down from Wasabi on the same street, so we made it there in great time, despite already being full. In need of some snacks, we went for the gourmet popcorn and gorged on the entire buttery plate while chatting and watching a football game.

Strada Downtown

Golden Crisp Calamari, Onions, Anahiem Peppers and Lemon served with Zesty Plum Tomato Sauce

Apparently, seafood was the theme of the evening, so we got fried calimari also, off of Strada’s menu at the bar. It is hard to go wrong with fried bits of sea creature dipped in a sweet marinara sauce, and this dish did not disappoint.

Old Europe Downtown

Creamy Coconut Cake

For our last stop of the night, we opted to go to our favorite dessert place over trying something new. Old Europe has been our spot since that awkward “friends” time before dating, and there are always at least ten desserts that I want to cram on my plate every time we go. One of my goals has been to eat every treat in the glass case, so I tried the creamy coconut cake as this is one of my favorite desserts and I haven’t tried Old Europe’s version yet. The moist cake layered with sweet and creamy coconut icing melted in my mouth so fast that I had to get another dessert.

Old Europe

Chocolate Bourbon Chestnut Cake

As full as I was, I took my Chocolate Bourbon Chestnut Cake home and thoroughly enjoyed it the night before classes started while I mourned the end of break.

An evening spent with my wonderful boyfriend eating Asheville’s finest food and touring the city is a date I will not soon forget. I do believe this will have to be a new Christmas tradition!

-Adrian

ASE Photography