BRIDGEWATER — The churns are turning for Smiley’s Ice Cream’s new location in Bridgewater.
When Derek Smiley opened Smiley’s Ice Cream’s first storefront location at Mt. Crawford Creamery in 2017, he had no idea there would be a need to expand within five years.
“I didn’t expect to grow this quickly. No one did,” he said. “The community support has been awesome for us.”
Before it marks its four-year anniversary, the local ice cream shop will start a new journey in Bridgewater — making room for Mt. Crawford Creamery and Smiley’s Ice Cream to expand their businesses.
The new Smiley’s Ice Cream will be located at the corner of Dinkel Avenue and Don Litten Parkway. The first store, which is rented from Mt. Crawford Creamery, will stay at the creamery.
“There is so much more we can do as a business if we have a new location,” Smiley said.
Gov. Ralph Northam issued a press release about the expansion on Friday. Over the next five years, Smiley’s Ice Cream will invest more than $1.15 million toward the new facility and bring in eight new jobs with an average starting salary of $19,320.
The expansion will also allow for an additional 18,000 gallons of Virginia-produced dairy and 2,500 pounds of locally grown fruit to be sourced over the next three years.
In the press release, Northam said he was delighted to support the expansion of Smiley’s Ice Cream — a business that brings together entrepreneurship, Virginia-grown ingredients and agritourism in the Shenandoah Valley.
“The company’s commitment to investing in Virginia farmers and agricultural products will further strengthen this rural economy and create exciting new opportunities in Rockingham County for visitors and residents alike,” he said.
As part of the expansion, the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors unanimously supported Smiley’s Ice Cream effort to receive an Agriculture Forestry and Industrial Development grant to assist with expanding the business.
The county appropriated $20,000 from its general fund for the grant.
Agricultural Forestry and Industrial Development grants are awarded when the grant will be critical to the success of a project, which will result in new jobs and investment from companies that add value to Virginia-grown agriculture and forestry products, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website.
Bettina Ring, secretary of agriculture and forestry for the state, said in a press release that she was pleased to partner with the county through the grant program to support Smiley’s expansion.
“Through their commitment to sourcing local fruits and 100% of their dairy products from Virginia, Smiley’s is ensuring that their success also supports Virginia’s agricultural community,” she said.
Since Smiley’s Ice Cream’s inception, it has used only locally sourced dairy products from Mt. Crawford Creamery.
Smiley started the business in 2001 when he was a student at Bridgewater College. Prior to the ice cream shop’s location opening at Mt. Crawford Creamery in 2017, Smiley operated the business from a 20-foot mobile unit.
Smiley said he is thankful to Mt. Crawford Creamery for allowing him to get more established and “get their feet wet,” but the building is no longer adequate for his business’ needs.
With maintaining his relationship with the creamery, Smiley wanted to relocate somewhere close by, and the new location is right down the road.
“They are the backbone of our product,” he said.
Smiley began searching for a new location for his ice cream business early last year.
In July, Bridgewater Town Council began discussing the possibility of selling the vacant property off of Dinkel Avenue and Don Litten Parkway to be used for Smiley’s expansion.
At the time, Town Manager Jay Litten said the proposed site was the “underdog,” but eventually prevailed and grabbed Smiley’s interest.
The town held a public hearing in August, but no comments were received. Town Council unanimously voted to sell the property to Smiley so it could be transformed into an “ice cream destination,” according to Litten.
The new location is estimated to be 5,000 square feet and have double the parking capacity of Mt. Crawford Creamery. Stonehill Construction is taking on the project. Smiley said the new store could be open as early as midsummer.
The new location will have plenty of indoor and outdoor seating options, as well as three service lines instead of one, Smiley said.
“The new shop will bring back indoor seating and group room for overflow indoor seating,” he said. “We will also have lots of outdoor seating options and grassy areas.”
With the average customer during the summer staying for 30 minutes when visiting Smiley’s Ice Cream, Smiley said the new space will be better suited for socializing.
“Ice cream is a very social dessert. It brings people together socially,” he said. “The greatest memories are made with ice cream.”