One look at the selection at Nancy’s of Woodstock Artisanal Creamery, and you’ll know that this is not your typical ice cream shop. Everything, from waffle cones to sauces, is house-made.
Vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free choices are not only an option, they’re ambrosial.
Many ingredients are locally sourced: dairy is from Ronnybrook Farms in Pine Plains and the chocolate comes from Fruition in Shokan. The constantly evolving menu is likely to include whatever is fresh, good, and inspiring.
“If we get a bushel basket of peaches, we may turn that into a new product and offer it as a special,”
says co-owner Kathryn Spata. “My chef may come in one day and want to try a new technique, or we may brainstorm and come up with a new milk shake…special! Nothing is etched in stone.”
That venturesome spirit has resulted in the creation of small-batch flavors, such as the sweet and tangy pairing of Strawberry Balsamic and the Stout ice cream that’s crafted with Keegan Ales’ Mother’s Milk.
“Our goal is to produce the freshest, creamiest, best tasting ice cream in the Hudson Valley!”
—Kathryn Spata, co-owner
“Nancy's flavors are inventive, the texture creamy and not overly sweet, and the folks are super friendly,” says reviewer Shira Kamil. “The Caramelized Banana is excellent, but the Coffee is to die for.”
The chefs are CIA-trained and work with a pastry chef as a consultant. Their approach is truly artisanal, as they develop from scratch not only the seasonal ice cream flavors, but also the ice cream cakes, the pies, the cones, the sauces, and any other confection that they dream up and add to the menu.
In short, the Spatas take the challenge they’ve set themselves—bringing something utterly new to the region’s ice cream scene—very seriously and very joyfully.
“Nancy’s was developed out of necessity,” says Kathryn. “When we first came to the Catskills, we often struggled with finding a good, not even great, ice cream parlor. So when we made the permanent move, it became more apparent that we needed to open our own. So, when my husband was away on business, I decided to write a business plan. One year later, we opened Nancy’s!”
That was last March, and Woodstockers have responded with delight to this new source of sweetness on Tinker Street.
“My daughter is vegan and she had the most amazingly delicious vegan sundae with vanilla bean dairy-free ice cream, topped with vegan carrot cake,” says reviewer Kerry Henderson on Facebook. “I loved the cream cheese cherry ice cream with real Italian cherries.”
Like so many new residents, Kathryn and her husband Sam got drawn into the Catskills life once they’d had a taste. Kathryn spent 20 years in Westchester, Sam is Bronx-born and raised, and the two had full-size professional careers in Manhattan and overseas—Sam as an architect with a major firm, Kathryn managing interior designprojects.
“We bought our home in Shandaken in 2010 as a weekend home,” Kathryn says. “As happens to most, it got harder to go back to our suburban home in Westchester. So in 2015, we made the decision to break away from the crazy lifestyle and moved permanently up to our weekend home.”
They’re not a bit sorry. “I love the Catskill Mountains,” says Sam. “We live inside the ‘blue line’ [park boundary]. I hike, kayak, and bicycle the wonderful rail trails. Or, when I’m not reading, I just look outside and watch the bald eagles soar.” It was that yearning for the kind of ice cream experience they missed that allowed Kathryn to delve into what had been an avocation.
“I love working in the kitchen, especially dessert,” says Kathryn. “I inherited that passion from my mom, Nancy. She’s not with us anymore, so we named the shop in her honor. And, by nature, I love to be creative, and developing recipes and sundaes is incredibly creative.” To get ready, Kathryn studied up on all things ice cream parlor.
“I researched ice cream machines, freezers, all equipment needed—I did my homework and then some! My husband and I have over 50 years’ experience in the design field. We have worked with big clients on big projects; we’re both very business savvy. We just applied our good sense of business, our design skills, and made it happen. ”Woodstock’s onetime post office offered the ideal location. “Woodstock is a destination for anyone who appreciates nature and the arts,” Kathryn observes. “The year-round community is very supportive of local business. The village is busy year-round; there’s always something to do for residents and tourists. And there are lots of tourists, coming from all over the world. The town is very charming and offers a wide range of shopping and eating.
“When you hand someone an ice cream cone, they can’t help but smile.”
That’s what we like about Woodstock. We also like our physical location. It has great bones, high ceilings, lots of natural light, and our own brick patio! We love that. Our customers enjoy eating their treats on our patio while enjoying views of Overlook Mountain! We couldn’t have asked for more!”
Nancy’s had a “soft” opening in March, and an official celebration in May, with Woodstockers already addicted to their offerings. “I’ve had strangers tell me about our shop, not realizing who I was, urging me to go and have the best ice cream ever!” says Sam. “We have great word of mouth and terrific community support.”
It’s easy to understand why. In addition to ice cream, cones, and sauces, house-made choices include “ice cream cakes, pies, cookies, milk shakes…. Our sundaes are fabulous!” says Kathryn. “Our goal is to produce the freshest, creamiest, best tasting ice cream in the Hudson Valley!”
Both partners fill numerous roles. “I do anything that needs to be done,” says Kathryn. “I take care of staff issues—we have a kitchen staff and a front of house staff—and welcome the customers to our shop. My husband is our IT expert, PR guy, marketing guru, and all around good guy!”
“I’m also a good counter person,” adds Sam. “I know my way around ice cream and shakes, back from my teenage years when I worked in the corner candy store.” And he’s loving being back in the sweetness biz. “We get adults who need a treat after a long day, teenagers having fun as a group, entire families—grandparents, parents, and kids. I love the instant gratification. When you hand someone an ice cream cone, they can’t help but smile.”
They strive to keep it fun, as the ice cream business should be, even in the back. “My employees have said to me several times that they love working at Nancy’s. That, to me, is paramount to success,” says Kathryn. “I don’t want to feel, or have anyone feel, dread coming to work. Everyone is treated equal and we all get to work in the kitchen, which I think is great! When I interview someone, I want to see enthusiasm, not necessarily about my shop, but just about anything. “
Her own enthusiasm just keeps growing. “I have worked in big and small companies, big and small cities, nationally and internationally, and this is by far the best job I have ever had,” she says. “Who isn’t happy to buy ice cream, especially my ice cream? The only stress I have is self-inflicted. I demand a high quality standard. But it’s ice cream. We make a mistake, fix it, and move on. I love it!”
One particularly impressive item on the menu that’s causing a stir—ice cream cakes—has already won them a contract to supply a local restaurant. They’d like to explore doing more of that sort of thing, and Kathryn’s not surprised the cakes are a hit. “They’re fantastic,” she says. “It’s a five-layer cake—three layers of cake and two of ice cream—frosted in our own fresh whipped cream.”
This summer, their biggest challenge may be keeping up with the sweet tooth of this sweet town. But one thing is sure: you never know what new and unheard-of treat you’ll find. “We are still developing our menu; it changes with the seasons,” Kathryn says. “Come visit us in July, National Ice Cream Month! We will be having a new special every Saturday of the month, and there are five! Here’s one of my favorites: sweet corn ice cream served with blueberry pie! I know, right?”
Nancy’s artisanal creamery
105 Tinker Street, Woodstock