At 3p.m., Signorello would get out of his teaching job and go to the restaurant or bar he worked at to continue his second passion – culinary. When he decided he wanted to be his own boss, he took his passions for science and dessert and combined them into a business venture, The Hollow Creamery.
“Working with ice cream is very much like working in chemistry. You have to combine everything in the right way – certain proportions. Just like anything else, if you have too much fat, too much proteins, too much carbohydrates, you can really mess up the batch of ice cream,” he said.
The Hollow Creamery first opened in 2010 in the small neighborhood of Carle Place, N.Y. In 2012, Floral Park resident Signorello took over the business. At The Hollow Creamery, Signorello makes American hard-packed ice cream, which is one of the oldest types of ice cream dating back to the eighteenth century in America.
But what is American hard-packed ice cream? The composition is simple, according to Signorello. Skim milk, sugar and flavor are the only ingredients needed and “because of that the flavor is a little brighter, the ice cream is a little denser,” he added. It’s often compared to gelato, which has about three to five percent milkfat, but ice cream cannot contain less than ten percent milkfat- or it’s technically not ice cream.
Regular customer Sakina Hajee of Mineola, N.Y., found The Hollow Creamery about a year ago and has been coming ever since to enjoy the drinks, pies and the ice cream.
“He changes up his flavors every week so on Mondays he’s making his ice cream from scratch so you know everything is fresh,” said Hajee. “The almond joy is actually my favorite.”
Carvel and Shake Shack are two chain franchises nearby to The Hollow Creamery. Carvel is popular for its “soft-serve ice cream” and Shake Shack for its milk shakes. Signorello explains that their ice cream is not quite the same and despite being surrounded by these popular places, the options are different.
“Shake Shack is custard. Custard has eggs. A lot of people can’t eat eggs,” he said, “and soft serve is Carvel- not everyone likes soft serve.”
Despite ice cream being something rooted in the history of American culture, Signorello finds that small, homemade ice cream parlors are disappearing. Friendly’s, Ben & Jerry’s and Baskin-Robbins are franchises that make the same type of ice cream as Signorello. However, Signorello likes the community feeling of his small business.
“Those places are important because you get to know the person,” he said. “You have a hidden menu with some customers and that’s what I have.”
Ashley Cruz, an employee of Coyle’s Homemade Ice Cream, knows the importance of these local customers.
“There are people that come from New York City and try our ice cream. People come from a lot of different places,” said Cruz. “But there’s also a lot of people that come from the surrounding communities like Brentwood and Islip and they are important” she added.
But keeping a business economically afloat isn’t always easy. When Hurricane Sandy, the most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, hit the area of North Hempstead, he felt the impact financially. Signorello took a hit of 10,000 to 15,000 dollars in loss of retail sales.
“We lost all of the ice cream, gave most of it away. The rest was thrown away,” he explained. “We took a pretty hard hit on that.”
He also took an economic hit last winter due to the extremely cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. According the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the 2013-2014 winter had some of the lowest temperatures on record in parts of the United States. He lost about 5,000 dollars in retail sales due to the harsh weather. According to Signorello, the cold temperatures were too much for customers and when it’s too cold, “people don’t want to go out, especially for ice cream.”
Signorello uses many strategies to keep traffic into his shop during the wintertime. He relies on his local and loyal customers to continue to come back for quality service and quality ice cream. About 50 percent of his customer base comes from the town of Carle Place while the other 50 percent come from elsewhere.
“I’m not a chain. This is the only one that I have,” said Signorello. “So I’m very conscious of how I treat my customers and make sure that they come back.”
To keep people coming to the shop year-round, Signorello doesn’t just offer ice cream. His selection of cappuccinos, espressos, teas, pies and brownies, gives more options to customers when times are slower in the winter. By having customers during the entire year, he maintains a connection with each customer and hopes they will return in the summer.
“I think the slower times are more fun too because you get to interact with the customer,” he said. “When there’s a line out the front door and a line out the back door, its a little bit more chaotic.”
He also pulls in customers during the winter with his specialty drinks. His liquor license allows him to sell beer and make unique treats for his customers.
“I make a chai ice cream so it’s tea and spices. Cardimum, nutmeg, that flavor profile,” Signorello explains. “They mix it with beer. They do a beer float.”
Vladislav Yakubov, 20, is a barista at The Hollow Creamery and enjoys the specialty flavors Signorello comes up with.
“I love that there’s so many different flavors of it. It doesn’t have to be just vanilla or chocolate,” said Yakubov. “My favorite is the toasted coconut almond.”
Signorello still uses his experience from years ago when he taught science by remembering the importance of connecting with people.
“The most rewarding part of this business especially, is working with the customer.”