Here’s the SCOOP
Between coming out with new flavors regularly, winning a national ice cream flavor competition and making all products in house, Mike Schifino, the owner of Holy Cow Ice Cream Cafe in Peabody and Gloucester, is dedicated to making high-quality ice cream for his customers.
It all started in 2014, when the Lynnfield native was looking into investment properties and took a “calculated risk” on a place in Gloucester.
“Once I got in there and started doing some renovations and stuff, it turned out that it used to be this old ice cream shop in the 1990s that had been closed for, like, a decade. And once I found out that there was actually kind of a demand for ice cream or for, at least, this place to come back, I decided it was time to pivot my game plan and try to figure out the ice cream business,” said Schifino.
Initially, he sourced the ice cream from Richardsons Ice Cream, but then switched to making some himself in 2019.
“I converted the back unit of this building that I bought into a commercial kitchen so we could make ice cream back there and also expand because we had been making ice cream sandwiches with our homemade cookies,” Schifino said. “So we started … integrating specials onto the menu board that were our homemade ones.”
Once the homemade items became more popular, he decided to expand and make the entire menu in house. By 2020, everything on the menu was homemade.
In the spring of 2021, he expanded business into Peabody.
“We were getting people driving an hour-plus to get our ice cream,” Schifino said. “We definitely wanted to come a little bit closer towards Boston. So with the Peabody location, it was not only that we were able to get to a location that we liked further away from Gloucester, so people wouldn’t have to travel as far but also, it gave us room to expand our production.”
All of their products are now made at the Peabody location, then delivered to the Gloucester store and their seasonal store at Salem Willows.
In November 2022, Holy Cow Ice Cream Cafe won the 2022 Ice Cream Flavor of the Year Award from the North American Ice Cream Association. The winning flavor was “Ritzy AF,” which is a salted butter ice cream with Ritz crackers and toffee bark.
“It’s the biggest ice cream contest in the country, and so we ended up winning the whole thing,” Schifino said. “So there were, I want to say, over 100 submissions from ice cream manufacturers across the country. It was based on a popular vote from people that went through and sampled them, and we got first place.”
Holy Cow Ice Cream has new flavors all the time. Some of the current spring flavors are “Wild Blueberry Pie,” “Cinnamon Churro Dough,” “Toasted S’mores,” and more.
What sets them apart from other ice cream places in the area is their ice cream is made with a 16 percent butterfat mix and they churn it at a lower setting, Schifino said.
“So what we like to do is whip it at a pretty significantly lower speed, and it ended up being a lot richer and denser of an ice cream,” Schifino said. “It’s a lot more expensive to do it this way but the product is paramount to us.”
They also use plant-based colorings such as beet juice concentrate and turmeric.
“All these things that are probably 20 times the cost of traditional food coloring, but it’s all in the mindset of trying to keep the quality of the product as high quality as possible,” Schifino said.
He said opening more locations is something that could happen in the future.
“We definitely want to continue to improve what we’re currently working with before we kind of jump into another thing, but we’ve been pleased with the expansion so far and we’re definitely open to the new opportunities as they come,” Schifino said.