Sundae’s Sweet Success

Kent Beidel launched Loaded Joe’s around 2004 to cultivate a sense of community in the Vail Valley, and although the coffee shop/bar/restaurant served its purpose, he has found a larger community through his artisan ice cream store, Sundae.

“Ice cream appeals to 98% of the population, whereas coffee and alcohol doesn’t quite have that broad reach. Sundae gives us a greater opportunity to connect with the community,” Beidel says, adding how Sundae donates ice cream to nonprofits for fundraisers, and its Smart Scoops program encourages kids to read to complete punch cards, which earn them free ice cream.

After 13 years of running Loaded Joes, which he “loved dearly,” Beidel decided to trade the long hours (7 a.m. to 2 a.m.) for more reasonable hours (11 a.m. to 10 p.m. max) and a continuously fun-loving atmosphere.

“Ice cream is generally a happy business,” he shares. “In the restaurant and bar industry, you have every emotional range. With ice cream, there’s this deep nostalgic memory. People eat ice cream on dates, with family, when they’re drowning their sorrows. In general, people are looking for and participating in a positive experience.”

In fact, Beidel believes he’s really in the business of “sharing joy, one scoop at a time.”

He credits his success — opening two stores (formerly Marble Slab) in Vail and Edwards in September 2016, then expanding to Glenwood Springs and Snowmass in summer of 2020 and Basalt in November 2021 — to his employees.

“We have a fantastic leadership team, with several pastry chefs leading the culture that is about the positive experience and the high quality. It’s a collaborative effort, and joy is part of the training. We hire specific people who are naturals at serving,” he says. “We allow people to be the best versions of themselves.”

He’s been fortunate to retain his talented team when other businesses are struggling. However, due to Sundae’s rapid growth, he still has a few store manager positions to fill. He also hires a lot of high school students.

“They don’t have experience, but we choose to embrace that — to slow down and take the time to mentor them,” he says, adding that he hopes to foster their future success by instilling a solid work ethic. “We succeed because of our extraordinary community: our employees, customers and partners.”

“Sundae is a place of joy,” adds Beidel’s executive assistant, Molly LaBrecque. “It’s somewhere you can walk in and feel a connection with the community. It’s a bright, welcoming place to be, and our products and customer service reflect that.”

Artisan Ice Cream

Beidel, a self-described entrepreneur, saw a niche to fill in the form of handmade, small-batch, premium ice cream. While industries like craft coffee, whiskey and farm-to-table food are common, he says artisan ice cream has a lot of untapped potential.

“I wanted a high-quality concept with made-from-scratch ice cream without the artificial colors, preservatives and junk that commonly goes into it,” he says. “Plus, there are so many fun, cool things you can do with ice cream.”

Photos courtesy of Sundae.

LaBrecque and her team develop both innovative recipes, like the popular salted cookies and cream, as well as classics, like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.

“We spend a lot of time dabbling with different ingredients — jams or swirls or sprinklings or blends,” LaBrecque says. “We’re very transparent about what we put in our products, and we want it to be as real and approachable as possible. We want people to be able to read and understand what is in there and why. There’s a lot of thought and a lot of care that goes into the process, and that can be felt through the ice cream.”

For example, the perennial summer favorite — blackberry lavender — involves grinding fresh lavender leaves and cooking them with blackberries. Curated sundaes like the banana split showcase culinary components of cherry compote, chocolate hazelnut sauce and candied hazelnuts — all made from scratch. One of Sundae’s pastry chefs created the lemon strawberry cheesecake sundae by adding lemon curd, graham cracker crumble and strawberries alongside the strawberry and cheesecake ice cream. But, perhaps the biggest indicator of the quality comes out in the strawberry ice cream.

“It tastes like you’re eating a fresh strawberry wrapped in cream, and there’s nothing else you can distinguish,” LaBrecque says.

Sundae also understands that kids want rainbow sprinkles and gummy bears and even adults might want Oreos, so they do compromise when it comes to adding a few prepacked goodies into customized mixes (like Marble Slab did). But, otherwise, all sauces, extras and, of course, ice cream, are made on-site. Sundae offers three to four vegan and sorbet options daily and 18-22 flavors on any given day. Beidel acts as the chef taste tester, and his standards are high. His main question: “Am I going to be wowed? Because, we want to blow your mind with our ice cream.”