By Nina Silberstein
The old song, “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream” might not be as popular as it once was in its heyday, but our craving for that creamy frozen treat is as strong as ever.
To satisfy a hunger for it, there’s a new ice cream shop at 1428 SE 36th Ave. in the Hawthorne District.
In September, Dairy Hill Ice Cream took over the old Ben & Jerry’s location, which occupied the space for more than 25 years. The former owners wanted to retire and the landlord approached Dairy Hill for their interest in the space, their desire to preserve the tradition of having an ice cream place in the neighborhood and its commitment to community.
“Opening here fit with our own philosophy of being a part of a local neighborhood and our first space on the eastside of town,” says Dairy Hill owner Uriel Kushner.
Originally from New York, Kushner moved to Portland in 1995 after living in Chicago and graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He’s a graduate of the Western Culinary Institute here in Portland (1997) and has worked in the food industry for 30+ years.
“I’ve worked in back of the house, front of the house and food sales,” Kushner explains. “After being the general manager for Pizzicato, I had the great opportunity to open my own place, Jam on Hawthorne, in 2000.”
Kushner was the culinary director at Cedar Sinai Park, a retirement community in SW Portland and in 2015, he opened Dairy Hill’s first location on Capitol Hwy. in Hillsdale. He took on a business partner last year to help the new shop grow.
Two of Dairy Hill’s main missions are to source local products and to offer options for people with dietary challenges.
“Our ice cream comes from state-based dairy farms,” Kushner explains. “Our vegan flavors are made in Eugene and our gluten-free waffle mix comes from the Portland metro area.” He says they strive to keep their prices low and family-friendly.
Certain flavors of ice cream never go out of style and the store has something for everyone, whether you enjoy it by the scoop in a cup with a cone on the side, a shake, float or sundae. Vanilla and chocolate are still very popular but so are mint chip, pralines and cream, cotton candy, and spumoni.
“These and many of our other flavors are available year-round, including cookie dough, mocha almond fudge and many other traditional flavors,” Kushner adds.
Seasonal specials include pumpkin pie ice cream in the fall/winter and root beer float ice cream in the summer. “Our coconut bliss flavors and sorbets are popular non-dairy choices.”
Another particular favorite is Dairy Hill’s baseball helmet sundae, which Kushner describes as a “fond throwback memory for many adult customers that their kids love too.”
Dairy Hill enjoys creating custom cakes and ice cream sandwiches for individual families, as well as for larger events or groups.
During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, their ice cream sandwich six-packs, build-your-own sundae kits and pints/quarts are ideal for takeout and are home-freezer friendly.
Note that cakes, pies and ice cream sandwiches can be custom made with any flavor. Before COVID-19, they offered catering and parties, but for now, they can handle any size order placed for takeout or delivery with the custom flavor options.
Another integral aspect of the business is their partnerships with various local organizations, schools and community groups. Last month for Thanksgiving, 10 percent of the purchase price on family sundae kits or ice cream pies that were ordered for pickup on November 24 or 25 were donated to schools.
These included Sunnyside Environmental School (SE Portland), Reike Elementary School (SW Portland), Bolton Elementary School (West Linn), Trillium Creek Primary School (West Linn), Montclair Elementary School (SW Portland), Maplewood Elementary School (SW Portland), Whitford Middle School (Beaverton) or Rosemont Ridge Middle School (West Linn).
“We also have a mobile ice cream cart that allows for setup at any location,” Kushner says.
Although Dairy Hill currently offers only takeout/curbside/delivery due to the pandemic, they appreciate the warm welcome they’ve received online.
Like other businesses, COVID-19 has hampered sales and the ability to have folks sit inside, but there is some outdoor seating at this location that they are in the process of expanding.
“We look forward to further connecting with the neighborhood as conditions improve,” Kushner says.
Diary Hill Ice Cream
1428 SE 36th Ave.