Serving up treats and inclusivity at Smusht
The vibrant and inviting Smusht storefront on Main Street has drawn the attention of Port residents for months. After months of preparations, the homemade ice cream and cookie shop is set to open this May.
Since 2020, Port resident Steve Edelson has made homemade ice cream sandwiches for the Port community, whether the treats were served at a town event, private party, or just outside his home.
Smusht offers a variety of artisanally crafted, pre-made ice cream sandwiches. The ice cream and cookies at Smusht are all made in-store. Customers can choose from 21 flavors of homemade ice cream, any two freshly baked cookies and 12 different toppings to create their very own Smusht ice cream sandwich. Smusht is also a full-service ice cream shop where customers can enjoy a cup, cone, sundae or shake.
Edelson came up with this idea 12 to 15 years ago. The business venture got put on hold as life got busy. Like many new entrepreneurs and business owners, the COVID-19 pandemic offered people the free time to craft solid plans for pent-up ideas. With some encouragement from his wife, Edelson began putting his homemade ice cream sandwiches into motion.
“So I started experimenting in the house, learning the science behind cookies and ice cream and making sandwiches,” said Edelson. “I had this vision for what I wanted the sandwich to be. I had friends over and they sampled them.”
In November of 2020, Edelson put out a Facebook post to tell his friends, family and neighbors he would be opening an ice cream stand outside of his house for the day.
“The line of people was down the block,” said Edelson. “So I did it again. I even started to sell little sample packages from my house, and I realized that it was working.”
Edelson needed a commercial kitchen to keep going and meet the demand. He found the Smusht location at 158 Main St. in December of 2021, put in for the business permits in February of 2022 and has spent the last months decorating, hiring staff and preparing to open this month.
With 21 flavors of ice cream, different cookie options and candy toppings, Smusht has many options for customers to choose from when creating their ice cream sandwich or cone. Edelson spent time experimenting and researching different flavor combinations.
“I joined the North American Ice Cream Association and I went to a few of their conferences. I learn a lot from other ice cream shop owners,” said Edelson.
Smusht has about 18 employees that are happy to make their customers’ ice cream sandwich fantasies come true. Of those 18 employees, two, Andres and Elizabeth, are from The Nicholas Center in Port Washington.
The Nicholas Center works to create innovative programs and services that allow autistic individuals to learn, live and work in the community. The organization supports individuals to learn critical life skills, improve social and communication abilities, gain vocational training and engage in community projects.
Through the Supported Employment Programs, individuals on the spectrum find jobs that are a good match for their skills.
“We support young adults with finding competitive employment. Sometimes that includes internships and other types of opportunities through businesses in the community,” said the director of Supported Employment Programs Norma Jean Miller. “We do different types of activities to come up with job match criteria. We assess the person’s skills, abilities and interests to find a good job match for them.”
The Nicholas Center and Edelson have been working together to place young adults in the Supported Employment Program at Smusht.
“When I originally thought of this idea, I had this desire to help children in need. And then that evolved into why does it have to be children? It can be anybody,” said Edelson. “I wasn’t specifically thinking of working with people on the spectrum. But knowing that The Nicholas Center is right here, it seemed like the perfect match.”
Edelson hosted an orientation for all of the employees to meet and learn the ropes of the shop. The employees radiated a welcoming vibe and created an inclusive environment where everyone felt comfortable learning about the shop and making friends.
‘[Edelson’s] been on board with our mission and really trying to find a way to work together and collaborate to create a neuro-inclusive work environment,” said Miller. “He has been accommodating their needs. That’s one of the most important parts of creating a neuro-inclusive work environment, having different types of systems and things in place to accommodate certain needs.”
Smusht has visual aids and a lot of color coordination to make the transition into learning the job smoother. The color coordination and visual aids not only help the employees, but it makes ordering easier for customers as well.
“I want this place to be an inclusive place for everybody and having an inclusive workforce is part of that,” said Edelson. “It’s really been incredibly rewarding. I think it’s a great collaboration for The Nicholas Center and us and hopefully can just get people in the community to be more understanding and appreciative for people that have different needs in terms of learning.”
“[Edelson’s] really setting up everyone for success,” said Miller.
At the beginning of May, Smusht had a soft launch for the employees to get used to the work process and for friends and family to come to the shop and try out the product. Some individuals on the spectrum from The Nicholas Center came down to see their friends in action at their job and get a sweet treat.
The Nicholas Center Co-Founder, Stella Spanakos, visited Smusht and got a delicious cone while observing The Nicholas Center participants at work with the community.
“We just love the fact that the community is approaching us with opportunities to allow our participants and their job coaches to come in. It’s really the ultimate inclusivity when it comes to community,” said Spanakos. “We’re offering great opportunities and a big dose of compassion.”
Spanakos pointed out a young man at the counter with his job coach coming to Smusht as a consumer. “He’s working on his money skills, communication and articulating what he wants. Then on the other side of the counter, you have someone on the spectrum working. They are putting all their training and skills into practice. It’s perfect.”
Smusht is set to open its doors to Port this month. Residents are invited to enjoy an ice cream sandwich or cone in the fun and bright interior of Smusht. The shop is flowing with colorful tables and chairs, fun art on the walls, and an upstairs decorated with sprinkles. Adrienne Mandelberger of Almond Hill Interiors worked with Edelson to create the classic ice cream shop vibe combining with a modern look.
Visit Smusht at 158 Main St. in Port Washington and follow @Smusht on Instagram or Facebook to stay up to date on the ice cream sandwich journey.