By Julian O’Donnell, Staff Writer
A delectable treat that is common throughout the Midwest has melted its way into the Bay Area. The phenomenon that is currently taking the west coast by storm is frozen custard.
Setting up shop in a teal truck covered with pictures of cows, izzyA’s Frozen Ice Cream Custard and Treats is garnering attention around the community for transporting the frozen custard tradition to the Bay Area.
“Ice cream custard is a very dense, rich, creamy, pudding like ice cream,” said Tina Tankka, who co-owns izzyA’s with her husband, Tom. “It’s frozen and it tastes just like ice cream but better.”
The name “izzyA’s” was inspired by the Tankkas’ daughters: Isabelle, a junior at Acalanes, and Alex, an Acalanes 2013 graduate and a current sophomore at UC Santa Barbara.
Tina Tankka came up with the idea of starting a business dedicated to bringing ice cream custard to California from trips to Wisconsin with her family.
“People do not eat ice cream in Wisconsin. They eat custard,” said Tina Tankka. “It was nothing I had ever tasted. I’m from New York where soft serve is the big thing. The flavor, the texture, the denseness in soft serve is nothing like custard.”
Coming onto the scene on Valentine’s Day, 2014, izzyA’s uses a truck to serve frozen custard all around the community. Using a food truck instead of opening a traditional shop is a new technique that has become the new “fad” in recent years.
“The rent for brick-and-mortar was going to be too high,” said Tina Tankka. “Ice Cream trucks are popular now so we jumped on the bandwagon.”
Ever since the recession hit the nation in 2008, many shop owners turned to food trucks in order to cut costs and spread their products to more places in a convenient way.
“For a couple of months, she was looking around for a couple of places,” said Isabelle Tankka, who works for izzyA’s. “A truck is just more sustainable and reasonable than a store.”
Tina Tankka’s love for creating ice cream custard originated from the fascinating steps it takes to make the treat.
“There is chemistry involved so it makes it all interesting and challenging,” Tina Tankka said. “Mixing flavors and herbs into my custard base and wondering what’s going to happen is captivating.”
Ice Cream Custard was invented in Coney Island, New York in 1919 when ice cream vendors added egg yolk to the ice cream to smooth out the texture and enhance the coldness of the ice cream.
After the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago included ice cream custard stands, folks from the Midwest fell in love with it and the custard buzz spread throughout that area.
Before Tina Tankka decided to create a business solely based on ice cream custard, only a handful of shops in the Greater Bay Area were selling ice cream custard.
“When my mom told us that she was going to start a business, I didn’t know what to expect of it,” says Isabelle Tankka. “My mom always has ideas for stuff. We kinda took this seriously but didn’t realize how big this would get.”
With not much experience making ice cream custard, Tina Tankka and her family embarked on their new business and quickly got accustomed to the art of creating the treat.
“It takes a little getting used to,” Tina Tankka said. “After a couple of times working with the machine, it becomes second nature.”
Since business has started, several students from Acalanes have headed over to sample the custard.
“I thought it was really good,” said junior Andrew Chow. “It was very dense and a lot smoother than ice cream usually is. It definitely opened my eyes to other options rather than the standard ice cream.”
Custard is far from healthy, however. It contains an immense amount of sugar and is a high fat treat. izzyA’s is similar to every other custard-based business, but it goes against the norm in terms of ingredients.
“We use only organic and local ingredients,” says Isabelle Tankka. “The milk, eggs, and butter that we use are all organic. She wanted to show the organic ingredients by putting cow pictures on the side of the truck.”
The commitment to use only organic ingredients comes from where we live. California is consistently ranked in the top 10 healthiest states. Using ingredients in a traditional custard would not do as well in California because how diet conscious Californians are. The healthy business does not only apply to izzyA’s.
Food trucks like izzyA’s usually offer an alternative to fast food chains, which can make selling a product much tougher because of competition.
“You have a feeling of ‘new kid on the block,’” says Tina Tankka. “You have to be careful to not overstep your boundaries too quickly. Also, making sure you always have a presence in the community is critical so people know that you are there.”
While her passion for creating food (especially custard) drove Tankka to create the company, the difficulty of owning and operating a business sometimes has her questioning the path of her enterprise.
“It is managing all of the little things,” says Tankka. “Managing accounts, the vendors, the computer work, etc. Also, housekeeping piles up and it needs to be dealt with. And the worst part; I’m not making custard while I’m doing that.”
Some of izzyA’s success can be attributed to social media, which is the foundation of the business’s advertisement plan.
“That is how you find us via our website, Twitter, Facebook, etc. To find out where we are at the moment, you go to our Twitter page,” says Tankka. “It is all social media.”
Although they have only been in business for a couple months, izzyA’s future is promising.
“It would be nice to have more than one truck and to possibly open a shop,” Tankka said. “It will take a couple of years to have any of that into consideration.”