The Cherry On Top
Sundae’s Homemade Ice Cream Celebrates 23 Years of Made-from-Scratch Success
Photographer: Ron Wise
In an age when several big-chain stores remain juggernauts in the ice cream industry, Sundae’s Homemade Ice Cream has stayed true to its family-owned, independent roots since opening in 1995.
In 1977, New York natives David and Steve Buckner moved with their family from New York to Carmel, and a few years later their father opened a Swensen’s restaurant in the Glendale Mall. The franchise offered a full menu along with homemade ice cream, and it was only by the mid-1990s when dad retired that David and Steve felt the time was right to establish their own niche in the food business and launch a shop that would specialize in the most delicious ice cream and coffee they could offer.
“We believed that by focusing only on making the best-tasting ice cream and coffee, it would be difficult for a large chain or anyone to compete with us,” recalls David, who began working in restaurants at the age of 17 and graduated with an accounting degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
For close to a year the brothers sought an optimal location for their ice cream and coffee concept, eventually deciding on 79th Street and Fall Creek Road.
“The Geist area just had a certain feel about it that we liked,” David says. “It was a beautiful, wooded area with a lovely lake and it just needed a homemade ice cream shop. There are multiple schools located around us, and what kid doesn’t like ice cream?”
Seven days a week, Sundae’s churns out about 100 gallons of ice cream per day on-site through the colder months. Sound like a lot? Through the summer the staff ramps it up to 225 gallons per day.
It’s all made by hand in small batches, churned the old-fashioned way, and each batch’s special flavor inclusions and variegated streak sauces are manually folded into the ice cream as it’s pulled from the freezer. The store carries a maximum of 32 flavors at any given time.
“As an artisanal ice cream producer we can focus on quality ingredients,” David says. “Since we batch-produce our ice cream, we frequently work with chefs to create new flavors that complement their dessert menu.”
Graham Central Station, a graham flavored ice cream with a graham swirl and chocolate crunch, remains the Sundae’s number one bestseller, while Lemoreo (you might have guessed – lemon flavored ice cream with Oreos) is another big seller and Fresh Peach tends to be a summer hit. Fall faves typically include Pumpkin, Apple Pie and Gingerbread, and this year’s Mother’s Day and Father’s Day specials were Honey Lavender, Root Beer Float and Bourbon Praline Pecan.
“We have perfected old classic flavors such as Lemon Custard, Orange Pineapple Dreamsicle and Black Walnut, and newer creations include Raspberry Rumble, Hoosier Buckeye and Sundae’s Trax,” says David, adding that the company also handles catering for weddings, corporate functions, high school open houses and other social events.
Such passion for ice cream done right has led to multiple awards over the years including the Indy A-List’s No. 1 Ice Cream Shop in Indianapolis for the past six years, and a designation of most popular Indiana ice cream shop by BuzzFeed in 2016.
The Buckners take to coffee with the same enthusiasm and systematic approach as they do with each batch of ice cream they make. As the Sundae’s coffee guru, Steve imports green coffee beans from all around the world and uses a drum-style fire roaster to roast approximately 15 pounds of beans every 15 minutes. House favorites include the Highlander Grog and Cookiedoodle.
Word has certainly spread throughout the years – in addition to a faithful following of Central Indiana patrons, which David says includes toddlers to senior citizens, Sundae’s now has more than 50 wholesale accounts including restaurants, caterers, schools and colleges throughout Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. Despite the company’s growth, David says he and Steve have kept their focus where they feel it needs to be — on cranking out a great product from scratch daily.
“As the ice cream industry becomes more consolidated, Sundae’s is unique because we are still a small, family-owned and operated business,” he says. “I truly believe that a lot of people feel like when they come into Sundae’s they are at home. Having been in business for almost 25 years, we see a lot of people who experienced Sundae’s when they were children and now they are bringing their own children in.”
Sundae’s Homemade Ice Cream is located at 9922 East 79th Street in Indianapolis. For more information including hours of operation and fundraiser opportunities, call 317-570-0533 or visit sundaeshomemade.com.