A perfect summer day includes a stop for ice cream and for many students and residents in Ann Arbor, Blank Slate Creamery hits the spot. Blank Slate Creamery, 300 W Liberty Street, has been a staple of downtown Ann Arbor and Brighton since 2014 and 2020 respectively and will soon be available for wholesale at local markets and at a brand new location in Scio Township
The owner and flavor connoisseur Janice Segler has again expanded the business to Scio Township west of Ann Arbor to include a 3,500 square feet production facility. The new location will be at Suite C at 7879 Jackson Road.
She plans to sell carryout pints at the facility pending approval from the township, a practice in all her businesses since the pandemic.
“We have a lot of customers tell us, ‘Oh yeah, tonight’s movie night, we are picking up a pint and taking it home,” Segler said.
Segler has created a foundation between Blank Slate and University of Michigan groups and staff since they opened less than a mile away from the university’s central campus. Besides donating gift cards to organizations, Segler appeared on campus giving a presentation to a business class about starting the creamery and worked with a group from the school of engineering to make improvements to the shop’s freezing process.
“The fact that we have a connection to students makes me really happy, so I feel like as an alum I’m giving back in some way,” Segler said.
Segler left her 20-year career at the University of Michigan in 2012 to do something different, something food related. After months of tinkering with an ice cream base recipe and wowing her family with taste tests, Segler decided she could upscale the operation and sell it. The next step was buying a pasteurizer and finding a location, where Segler said they had a stroke of good luck when they could buy their first location at Liberty and First.
“It was weird, things just started to fall into place,” Segler said.
Segler described the buildout of the building as a family affair with a quick six-month turnaround. Her brother worked in construction, her father was an electrician and her youngest son works as the operations manager for Blank Slate so Segler had a team of early supporters for her new endeavor. The North American Ice Cream Association Facebook group and yearly conferences also provided support and she still frequents the page to this day.
Blank Slate prides itself on their mission for whole food approach to the creamery. Segler intentionally tries to support local Ann Arbor and Michigan businesses for more control over natural ingredients. Guernsey Farms, located in Northville was chosen to supply the creamery’s dairy supply because their products don’t include additives among other positive qualities.
“In my book, if you are going to splurge on something that is a treat, make it whole food, make it real food,” Segler said.
Homemaking the base allows for more control of the flavor and the ability to steep flavors like mint, basil or coffee into the mix when it’s pasteurizing for a deeper flavor. Some consistent flavors include lemon, tea and coffee. Whether it’s a salty caramel, biscotti or cold brew coffee, or matcha, chai or earl gray tea, even if you can’t find one flavor you were craving, there is something similar.
Segler says the Ann Arbor creamery’s greatest achievement is the employee’s training for long lines on their busier nights. Even with a queue out the door, the creamery encourages taste testing of new flavors, even if it ends with a guest getting their go-to flavor.
“We have a mantra: Just make peace with the line. Be as efficient as you can be, be as quick as you can be but give people the attention they need, help them select a flavor, and end up with something they really like,” Segler said.
This attention to customers is what keeps drawing them back to make the creamery a third space to socialize in and around. One night, Segler looked out at the groups of students and families who had long finished their desert and knew she had succeeded in not only ice cream but in having a comfortable place where people wanted to stay.
“It occurred to me but I never thought we would achieve it: create an environment where people wanted to hang out,” Segler said.