ENCINITAS — Ken Schulenburg said he remembers the first time he tried Handel’s Ice Cream. The Midwest native said it was about 13 years ago.
“It was just amazing,” Schulenburg said. “The quality of the ice cream was amazing.”
Today, Schulenburg and girlfriend, Juliana Ortiz, are the owners of the Handel’s Ice Cream location that opened in Encinitas this month.
The company, which was founded in July 1945 by Alice Handel in Youngstown, Ohio, has been recognized for serving one of the “best ice creams” in the U.S. by publications such as National Geographic and USA Today.
Handel’s Ice Cream currently has nearly 40 locations in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Florida. The Encinitas location, which has 15 employees, is the fourth shop in California, but Schulenburg and Ortiz are hoping to expand.
Schulenburg, who worked in the retail industry, and Ortiz, who worked in the financial services industry, said they quit their jobs and sold their personal belongings to purchase the franchise rights to Handel’s Ice Cream in San Diego County.
“We went back to the Midwest and visited a friend who owned a Handel’s,” said Schulenburg, 44. “It just clicked. We felt that it’s such a great product that we wanted to bring it to Encinitas and San Diego County.”
Schulenburg said the couple, who have been together for two years, felt Encinitas would be the best community to introduce the Midwest brand.
“We love the town and we love the community,” said Schulenburg, whose nickname is now “ScoopDogg.” “Handel’s is about bringing families together and Encinitas is a great place for that.”
The couple said the ice cream is made in-house with 48 flavors offered daily.
Schulenburg said their product stands out because of the quality of the ingredients.
“We don’t skimp on the ingredients,” Schulenburg said. “When we talk about butter pecan ice cream, we don’t use chips or chunks, we use whole pecans. The recipe is exclusive to us. The ice cream is really scrutinized before we bring it out.”
The quality of the product is what drove Ortiz to co-open the shop.
“I’m a big ice cream fan and I fell in love with their ice cream,” said Ortiz, 34. “People are really impressed with the product.”
So far, customers have been receptive to the ice cream shop, Schulenburg said. He said dozens of customers who are familiar with Handel’s Ice Cream have stopped into the Encinitas location, while one family drove 45 minutes just to have the ice cream.
But the couple doesn’t just want to serve a great product. They hope to create new memories for customers.
“When you have ice cream as an adult you think about all the memories you have as a kid,” Ortiz said. “That’s what happened to me when I had the ice cream — it brought me back to those memories. You don’t always find that in a business.”
In five years, Schulenburg said he hopes to have more locations along San Diego County’s coastline, and residents will have memories of when the Encinitas location first opened.
“I want kids today to remember their first ice cream cone here,” Schulenburg said.
Handel’s Ice Cream is located at 90 North Highway 101 in Encinitas.