Locally made ice cream has returned to Westport. Steve Engravalle, chief operating officer and co-owner of Westport Ice Cream Bakery, opened the shop last week in the former location of Murray’s Ice Cream and Cookies.
Murray’s, established in 1984 by Murray Nixon and her mother, closed for the season in late 2016 as it normally did for the winter. However, word spread that the closure was permanent when Murray’s equipment was listed on an auction site. Nixon couldn’t be reached for comment at the time.
As business partners, Engravalle, his brother Dan, and sister-in-law Debra bought much of Murray’s equipment; another brother, Mark, also works with the business. They developed a business plan and spent roughly six weeks in lease negotiations. A steady stream of new customers have discovered the shop since the doors have opened.
“We’ll have a grand opening on May 13. I wanted to do a soft open until I can get my staff hired and trained,” says Engravalle, who plans to hire high school students and other people to work throughout the summer.
While the basic interior layout remains the same, Engravalle updated the space with purple paint, signs and fixtures. The purple-and-white color scheme gives the space a bold, cohesive look. Brushed stainless steel panels wrap around the front counter and refrigerated cases. Digital screens and mounted signs display the shop’s offerings.
The family-oriented business introduces creative ice cream flavors, traditional Italian ices and baked goods made in-house. Engravalle hired former Lidia’s baker Mary Braasch to make tiramisu, cookies, mini-cakes and other goods. The shop will take custom orders for baked goods and also serve shakes, sundaes, ices and ice cream by the scoop.
“Coffee has been the most popular ice cream flavor by far,” says Engravalle. “Salted caramel with butterscotch and white chocolate chips is the second-best seller.”
Other flavors include chocolate velvet (made with 6.6 pounds of Nutella, plus Ghirardelli’s chocolate), cannoli (made with 20 pounds of handmade ricotta in each batch), coconut with pineapple and macadamia nut, and Unicorn, an ultra-sweet batch of purple ice cream topped with colorful sprinkles. Frankenstein, which is “green-colored like the monster,” is a mint-infused mix of creme de menthe, cookies and candies that contrasts creamy and crunchy textures. Flavors will rotate each week and reflect seasonal tastes.
“We use real ingredients and a mix with 14 percent milkfat,” says Engravalle, “so this is super-premium ice cream. We have 168 recipes to rotate into 16 slots in the freezer.”
Sizes come in junior (one scoop), small (two scoops) and medium (three scoops). The coffee ice cream is infused with ground Folger’s coffee and sure enough, it delivers intense coffee flavor and a creamy texture.
Served in a separate freezer section, an extensive range of Italian ice flavors include mandarin orange, maraschino cherry, Grandma’s tea, Jersey blueberry and, of course, lemon. “I grew up eating lemon ice made by my grandfather and grandmother,” says Engravalle.
Recipes for Vito’s Famous Shalolly & Sorbetto are inspired in part by Engravalle’s grandfather Vito. Vito’s likeness is incorporated in the business logo and on a neon sign in the shop as a tribute.
While several family members now live in the Kansas City area, the Engravalle family originally hails from a small town in New Jersey. Engravalle’s grandparents once made ice cream and ices in the 1940s and 1950s and served them from a bowling alley concession stand. Engravalle, who is half-Polish and half-Italian, explains the origin of shalolly. In the New Jersey town where the family is from, the word referred to Italian ices. “Italians lived on the hills of the town. The Polish lived in the valley,” says Engravalle. “The Polish pronounced gelato in a way that eventually turned into shalolly.”
Engravalle, a school superintendent for six years, decided to move to Kansas City to be near family after his wife died five years ago. He wanted to start a family business, and the unexpected closure of Murray’s provided the right opportunity.
To distinguish Westport Ice Cream Bakery, Engravalle’s innovative ideas include offering private parties for customers in the shop, custom ice cream flavors, and a daunting eating competition.
“The Trashcan Sundae Eating Challenge will pack 17 four-ounce scoops with toppings into a trash can-shaped serving dish,” says Engravalle. “Two people can split the sundae. If they finish it, then it’s free. Otherwise, it costs $100.”
Engravalle aims to attract regular customers to his business, located in a spot associated with premium ice cream in Westport. “We’re here to be part of the community,” he says. “We’ll be open year-round, seven days a week.”
Westport Ice Cream Bakery, 4120 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 14, Westport, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.214.8887, icecreamkc.com