Joanne Canady-Brown and her talented team have wowed us for years with the deliciousness of her wildly popular bakery, the Gingered Peach in Lawrenceville. Now she and the GP gang have expanded from a hot kitchen to a cool freezer bringing some of the Gingered Peach magic with them to their new endeavor just around the corner. If 2685 Main Street in Lawrenceville seems like a familiar address, it should. What was once the home of Purple Cow Ice Cream is now Melba Ice Creamery, the newest gem in the Gingered Peach crown.
Like its predecessor, Melba exudes that feeling of a small-town Norman Rockwell print in the Saturday Evening Post and the vestiges of the bovine motif are definitely there, yet it’s different. Still, for those trepidatious of change: take heart; this is less a replacement and more of a reimagining.
“People were really attached to Purple Cow and many had come here for years. There are strong memories here for so many folks. I knew we needed to honor that connection,” explained Canady-Brown, who has gone out of her way to assure people that she will do her best to give them something that would honor those memories and hopefully create some new ones with Melba.
But how did this scrappy kitchen baker from West New York, NJ with moxie, mouth, and even more determination and vision, go from cupcakes and croissants to waffle cones and jimmies within the span of seven months and 50 feet?
“Ice cream was always on the Gingered Peaches’ timeline.” Canady-Brown declared with just a hint of whiplash from the seemingly breakneck speed of Melba’s debut. When Purple Cow owners, Tom and Cindy Pearce, decided it was time to retire, they began to look for someone whose focus would be on the community and not so much on capitalism to take over the business.
“Lineage is important when passing on businesses in Lawrenceville,” Canady-Brown informed. That makes sense in a small community with small business owners who are fighting for relevance and survival, while dodging the ubiquitous Prime trucks. So, on a brisk November day when the Pearce’s offer presented an opportunity Canady-Brown was not expecting, she could not refuse. With an agreement made, our familiar Purple Cow became more than a logo but a Holstein with a History. She got a name, and she grew up just a little.
“We wanted to keep the familiarity of the Purple Cow mascot but also give her some structure, an origin story.” Canady-Brown explained. Working with a branding team, Melba began to take shape. The name was something that sounded a bit southern, with the texture and tone that comes from the stuff of life and reminded Canady-Brown of someone like her grandmama, Johnnie Mae. And of course, it makes that connection to the Peach that started it all. The look, the feel, and the flavors needed to remind us of yesterday but also sit us squarely in today while savoring what tomorrow could bring. From varying hues of purple seen in the merchandise and decor of Melba’s purple past, to subtle nods to Joanne’s childhood, like “Degrassi” era Drake dotting the wallpaper in the bathroom, to jars of sprinkles, combos and new flavors.
I asked Canady-Brown about her fondest and most vivid ice cream memory. “Mr. Softee!” came speeding out of her mouth faster than it ever came down any street. A wistful smile flashed on her face, but she qualified: “We just never knew when he was coming!” If we were lucky, he came down our street four times a summer; some summers, not at all. There were five of us and sometimes there wasn’t enough money for everyone to have Mr. Softee. My father didn’t play that. If all the siblings couldn’t have ice cream, none of the siblings had ice cream.”
We all have vivid memories around ice cream and Melba is here to give us more. Keeping a steady eye on the vision of the ice cream shop that many of us are familiar with, the self-proclaimed nerd has put in the work, as always, to make sure she knows and understands the science behind what makes ice cream well, ice cream, and how she can make it better. “I’ve made ice cream at home with my kids, but never on this scale.” She knew she needed to be on point with the science facts. So together with the GP gang, they spent the next six and a half months testing flavors, coming up with inventive items, ideating about collabos (GP’s take on bakery/ice cream combos), choosing milks, creams, extracts, and doing the tedious work of perfecting their ice cream bases.
“Baking is science; ice cream is science on steroids.” Canady-Brown said with a bit of exhaustion. Suddenly words like “hydrophobic” and “hydrophilic”, along with phrases like “leveraging cold” and “manipulating variables,” came flowing out of her mouth like good hot fudge. Bill Nye would be very proud of her. All of that was great, but I wanted to know what flavors would be introduced and when and how some of that GP magic would be gracing sugar and wafer cones all over the county. “Gingered Peach baked goods will be the anchor of many of the sundaes and specialty items.”
That’s what people want to hear! And at yesterday’s grand opening, “Ms. Melba” certainly showed out, if sticky hands, stained blouses, and ice cream mustaches have anything to say about it. When Lawrence schools closed their doors for the summer that afternoon, many students and parents made their way to Melba Ice Creamery to officially celebrate the start of summer. Lines formed and people were cued up inside and outside, with great anticipation.
The usual suspects lined the refrigerated front case while Melba’s freshman class of well-trained super scoopers got busy. Vanilla, (vegan) chocolate, strawberry, and chocolate chip mint, along with Purple Cow (black raspberry with chocolate chips) greeted customers accompanied by some stellar offerings dreamed up by the staff. Cow Tracks seemed to be a favorite of the younger set, featuring a peanut butter and a fudge ripple with mini peanut butter cups in a vanilla ice cream base. Quite a few cones of roasted and salted pistachio and chocolate cherry chunk passed by as I waited in line, almost tempting me to change my mind. My mind, however, was set on trying the sorrel sorbet, an homage to Canady-Brown’s husband Matt and his Jamaican roots. It was tangy, spicy, and herbaceous and is, interestingly, not a fruit but a vegetable. Lemon and mint mildly round out the flavor of this crimson-colored delight. If sweet ice cream is not what your feeling, I suggest trying the sorrel (they are generous with the samples!) or another sorbet like like the guava lemonade or the southern sweet tea sorbet.
MercerMe Editor Amie Rukenstein went all out with a Flight of Fancy: four mini scoops in order to try four different flavors. Passersby commented on the four-flavor dish: “that’s the coolest thing I ever saw!” Rukenstein said the peach cobbler ice cream was a standout – cream cheese ice cream with pieces of Gingered Peach’s peach cobbler and real fresh peaches, reminding her that she should probably wear the pants with the elastic waistband next time. She also proclaimed the vegan chocolate, the Purple Cow, and the blueberry cheesecake “extraordinary.” “I could eat that chocolate ice cream every day for the rest of my life,” she sighed.
Melba offers, of course, the classic standards, like sundaes and banana splits – just good old childhood memories, no spin, unless, of course, you want that. Each oozing with whipped cream, hot fudge, caramel, and a bright red maraschino cherry on top, just like you remember. The stuff sweet dreams and belly aches are made of. Melba also went real old school on their menu by offering classics that are seldom seen these days: root beer floats and old-fashioned egg creams. “I couldn’t find an egg cream anywhere, but I remember the flavor so well. I wanted to do it right, so we worked hard on that one,” explained Canady-Brown. Your taste buds will approve.
With her heart firmly situated in Lawrenceville, Canady-Brown has made it a point to hire local youth, most of whom are from Lawrenceville itself. She trained them personally and probably most importantly, shared with them her own origin story and her vision. If there is anything they can take away from their experience at Melba Ice Creamery, it will be that power, passion, and demonstration of how determination can turn dreams into a reality they could have never imagined. I’ll have two scoops of that, please.
Spoons up folks, straws out! Whether you call them jimmies or sprinkles or you like milkshakes or ice cream sandwiches (yea, they got those too) if it’s pie a la mode or sorbet, Melba’s got it. Come and get your moo on at Melba Ice Creamery and start your summer off right. Yum it up. Tell all your friends.
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