On the office wall at his Poutine, Eh? restaurant in Kennewick, Robert Chapin has two strategies to spark creative ideas for his neighboring ice cream shop: his thought board and his flavor bible.
It’s where he comes up with some of his outrageous – yet tasty – ice cream concoctions at What’s the Scoop?
The shop’s most popular flavors have been Mexican hot chocolate, poblano mole, maple bourbon pecan pie, and a cherry port for adults.
He also works with Moonshot Brewing to make ice cream with beer.
The idea for the What’s the Scoop? ice cream shop took shape while hunting for fresh cheese curds for the poutine restaurant.
“We wanted to name the store with a question mark in it, like we did Poutine, Eh?” said Mallory Chapin, Robert’s wife and business partner.
They operate their two shops in a Kennewick strip mall at 3902 W. Clearwater Ave., in suites 119 and 120.
The poutine restaurant opened in December 2020 and the ice cream store opened last December.
“Business has been getting better and better,” Robert said. “I had supreme confidence this (ice cream) store was going to go. I created a demand for ice cream.”
He’s not being arrogant. He’s just confident.
It was his same attitude when he and Mallory opened Poutine, Eh?
Robert was a chef for 22 years, many of those at the Toyota Center in Kennewick. But during the Covid-19 pandemic, when it was time to come back to work, he wasn’t rehired.
No matter. He and Mallory already had an idea of what they wanted to do.
“We were in Vancouver (British Columbia) about 10 or 11 years ago when we came across a poutine restaurant,” Mallory said.
They wanted to open one in the Tri-Cities.
What is poutine? It’s a dish of French fries and cheese curds topped with brown gravy. Chapin adds a protein – bratwurst, sirloin, chicken, etc. – if customers prefer.
Robert is nothing if not fearless. He likes to experiment.
“We do Eggs Benedict one Thursday a month,” he said. “The other three Thursdays we do tacos.”
He raves about the butter chicken tacos. But there is another dish that is even more intriguing: chicken fried steak tacos with gravy and mashed potatoes in the tortilla.
The couple were also fearless when they opened Poutine, Eh? – smack dab in the middle of a pandemic.
“That first December, we were destroyed. We couldn’t serve anyone inside. Customers would come by for carry out. There was a line out the door. We had $4,000 days that first week,” he said.
They still don’t have much local competition when it comes to poutine, he said.
“We’re still getting new people coming in all of the time,” Chapin said.
Just recently, the Chapins said two couples from Spokane told them they drove down just to get the poutine.
At one point in early 2021, the Chapins went looking for fresh cheese curds for their poutine.
He discovered Jeff Adams, owner of the Walla Walla Cheese Company in Milton-Freewater, through an internet search.
“(The cheese curds) were fresh,” Mallory said. “And I started doing a satellite store there on Saturdays.”
In addition to the fresh curds, the Chapins enjoyed Adams’ ice cream. It was smooth, rich and tasty. So they started selling it by the pint at Poutine, Eh?
Last year, when the tenants in suite 119 – next door to Poutine, Eh? – moved out, the Chapins were able to swing a deal with the owner to open What’s the Scoop?
Adams was on board.
And then Robert became fearless once again. He wanted to sell his own ice cream. He knew people liked the usual suspects of ice cream – chocolate, vanilla, strawberry – and that’s what Adams mostly sold.
But Robert wanted to, well, go crazy.
Robert works with Adams and the Walla Walla Cheese Company to get the ice cream, but some of the flavors at What’s the Scoop? are out of this world.
Like black licorice. Thai coconut curry with cashews. Pomegranate. French toast and bacon. Jalapeño cheesecake. Bourbon bacon caramel. Beet-goat cheese-honey.
So far, Chapin has come up with more than 100 flavors in the seven months they’ve been open.
“It’s a challenge. I challenge myself all of the time. I have to push the envelope,” he said. “A lot of my inspiration comes from Home Goods, from all of the worldly flavors they sell. Olive oil, salts, sugars. A lot of that.”
Texture is important to him, too. He likes a little crunch to go with his products. And while sweet is usually the way to go, savory is not out of the question.
The ice cream is made 2.5 gallons at a time.
If something works, more of it can always be made. If it doesn’t work, they’ll move on to the next flavor.
POG with Carolina reaper is a combination of POG (passion orange guava) and one of the hottest peppers around.
It works, although Chapin had to get rid of the pepper seeds the first time around. It starts out sweet, then smacks you at the end with the heat.
At any time, What’s the Scoop? will offer 12 flavors. There always will be the traditional mainstays for those less adventurous.
If a customer can’t find enough flavor in what’s available, they can add flavor crystals – rose, hibiscus, habanero, cilantro and mint.
Once a flavor of ice cream sells out, a new flavor will be added.
The Chapins also have started getting into doing theme weeks once a month. At the time of this writing, the theme was Harry Potter.
Some of their Harry Potter offerings included Malfoy’s Attitude Adjustment; Ravenclaw’s Tea & Cookies; Hermione’s Summer Limeade; Dumbledore’s Favorite Rolls (King’s Hawaiian and pineapple swirl); and Goblet of Fire (POG with Reaper).
“And we have muggle flavors: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry,” Mallory said. “Scoop manager Micki Swentik is the driving force behind Harry Potter week.”
The creativity that Chapin and his wife have is creating new customers.
“It’s trial and error at 2-and-a-half gallons at a time,” Robert said. “We are creating a clientele for this.”
And the Chapins do it with joy and without fear.
“Watching the customers react to the poutine or the ice cream, whether it’s the first time or the sixth time, is what I love,” Robert said. “It’s a bit different. This is what motivates me when they say, ‘Wow!’ I like to give people an experience.”
Both shops are closed Sunday-Tuesday.
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