A new ice cream shop is opening that can give locals with allergies the opportunity to feel safe with their dessert.
Jenna Horning, who previously lived in Virginia Beach, said for years her family struggled to find a place where they felt comfortable with their daughter eating because of her severe peanut allergy. Horning said she and her husband never took their child to dipped ice cream shops because many couldn’t guarantee their product wouldn’t be contaminated with peanuts.
That’s why she decided to open Bean’s Ice Cream at 475 Wythe Creek Road in Poquoson.
“If I asked an establishment and heard them wavering, then I wouldn’t let my daughter eat there,” she said. “It’s really about how you respond to a parent, not keeping the sale. I want these families to feel like they’re safe.”
While Bean’s is in Poquoson, Horning said she has received encouragement from mothers across Hampton Roads because they relate to the difficulty of finding allergy-friendly food establishments. In a post on the Facebook page York County Va 411, members expressed their excitement not only at the new location but that it provided them with a greater variety of options.
“With my daughter, it wasn’t even about how far you had to go to find a place. She just wouldn’t do it, she wouldn’t feel comfortable eating at any of them,” Horning said. “But if she’d had something like this anywhere near her, it would’ve been phenomenal.”
Horning said there are a number of ways the shop ensures safety for those with allergies, but one of the main features is having two of everything. In the shop there is a separate freezer for products that don’t contain peanuts, there is a separate set of utensils and a milkshake mixer that never touches products containing peanuts.
“I wanted to go a step further so the family feels comfortable,” she said. “So we have dedicated lines and where if you order something from [a particular] freezer… you can be sure there’s never been any peanuts in it.”
There will only be three ice cream options that contain peanuts and none of the available toppings will include them. In addition, Horning said the shop will offer options for those with egg and wheat allergies.
One of the things that also makes the shop comfortable for those with allergies is that Horning has extensively trained her staff to understand and be fully informed on the products and allergy concerns so when parents ask questions, they can be confident and accurate in their answers.
“You’ll go to places and ask if it is safe for peanut allergies and they’ll respond ‘we don’t have peanut toppings,’ but that’s not what I asked,” she said. “It’s all young kids working here, but we’ve trained them to speak to parents and make them comfortable.”
As a graduate of Old Dominion University with a degree in business marketing, Horning said she had always wanted to open a business. As she got older, she became a mom and wife and so her dream had been put on the back burner, she said.
But when a location opened in Poquoson, she jumped on the opportunity and with the help of her family the space that had formerly been a dry cleaners was transformed into an ice cream shop.
This Fourth of July, Bean’s will officially hold its grand opening and Horning said she’s excited just to connect with the community and provide something safe and fun for parents.