Food and Beverage
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Success Stories

Seattle Ice Creamery Exceeds Local Customer Demand During the Pandemic Using Nextdoor

When the spread of the coronavirus prompted the shutdown of businesses across the country,  Sweet Alchemy Ice Creamery owner Lois Ko knew she needed to pivot her business in Seattle in order to keep and attract local customers.

“Our main store is located right across the street from the university. As [coronavirus] cases started popping up, we saw our foot traffic come to a halt – and at the time, we didn’t have an online ordering system in place. We relied on impromptu sales of passersby,” Lois said.

Thinking quickly about what might save her three ice cream shops, Lois shared on Nextdoor that she was offering free delivery of her locally made pints of ice cream. 

“Hello neighbors! I own the ice cream shop, Sweet Alchemy Ice Creamery, in front of UW. I’m here to see if anyone in the surrounding neighborhood would like me to drop off a pint (or two) of ice cream in front of their door? I can accept Venmo. Text me for flavors! Lois”

She couldn’t have predicted the response. Hundreds of neighbors nearby, in search of a sweet pick-me-up during an unprecedented crisis, requested delivery of their favorite flavors for themselves – and as gifts for others.

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Lois has hand-delivered hundreds of pints of ice cream to local customers since the pandemic began. She leaves the pints on doorsteps, rings the doorbell, and then waits at the curb to make sure the recipient is home.

In order to respond to the demand created by her post – 500 orders – Lois temporarily closed her three stores so her 15 employees could focus on making ice cream and fulfilling the orders.

“My original post was responsible for spreading so much word-of-mouth interest about our brand,” she said. “People were calling, texting, emailing, ordering pints for their friends. It was overwhelming, but in a good way.”

Lois believes that the orders in response to her Nextdoor post were responsible for bringing in  the same revenue she would have made across her three stores during the month. When asked why she turned to Nextdoor versus other marketing tools, she said: 

“We have a decent following on social media, but we have followers from California and New York. I knew that reaching out on those channels would grab interest that I’d never be able to fulfill. I needed to reach people in a small geographic area that I could reasonably handle by myself. Nextdoor just made sense.”

While the coronavirus has upended life – and business – as Lois knows it, she has learned a few business lessons since the start of the pandemic:

  1. Know your customers and where you can find them online. The impact of the coronavirus is so great that it might be a generation before we move past it. Even if you haven’t had a social media presence, it’s okay to start late – just as long as you start. You can no longer wait for your customers to just come to you. You need to meet them where they are, and for the foreseeable future, that’s online.

  2. It’s never too late to try something new. I never imagined that I’d be managing the logistics of ice cream delivery, and driving my personal car to drop off ice cream. But here we are. Trying something new, even if it’s scary or uncomfortable, can mean the difference between staying in business or not, so give it a try. Maybe it’s online ordering, curbside delivery, or even delivering ice cream. You won’t know until you try.

  3. Don’t let fear be the driving force for your decisions. Similar to the previous piece of advice, you can’t operate, or not operate, out of fear of the unknown. During this pandemic, I’ve said that to myself every day. Am I going to make this decision out of fear? 

What has become clear during the pandemic is that local customers still want Sweet Alchemy’s hand-crafted ice cream. Lois just needed to figure out a new way to get it to them – and that meant reaching the people who would have normally walked by her storefronts. With Nextdoor, she can reach those local customers that live nearby, and for free.