Two local ice cream shop owners give us the scoop on summer prices

Merry Dairy owner Marlene Haley says she’s tried to hold the line on raising prices, but is currently reviewing what might change going into the summer. Photo by Christian Lalonde

As warmer weather looms, Ottawa ice cream shop owners say they’re trying to cope with costs that have risen as much as 50 per cent and not raise prices for consumers.

At The Merry Dairy on Fairmont Avenue, owner Marlene Haley says she’s tried to hold the line on raising prices, but is currently reviewing what might change going into the summer.

“In this industry, they say, with inflation, you should be raising your prices each year,” Haley says. “We are going to start reviewing our food costs, paper products and everything and go from there.” 

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In 2021, one year into the pandemic, Haley raised the price on one-pint containers of ice cream by $1 to the current price of $10. Last spring, she raised the price of a single scoop of ice cream by 25 cents to $4. Kiddie scoops have remained unchanged at $2.65.

The Merry Dairy purchases ingredients like vanilla and coconut cream in bulk. In the past three years, Haley says Merry Dairy has experienced a 40-per-cent increase in shipping charges for these items. To reduce costs, Haley says she is trying to source goods that are made locally. 

She’s also looking at what flavours she can offer. “If we are sourcing ingredients that really make an expensive flavour, we might have to think twice about those specific flavours,” Haley says.

Merry Dairy offers more than 100 flavours of ice cream. One of them,  Finnegan’s Wake, is particularly expensive because it is made with vegan Irish cream and house-baked brownies, Haley says.

At Moo Shu Ice Cream & Kitchen on Bank Street in Centretown, owner Liz Mok has been working at the business for eight years. 

She has seen an increase in the costs of the paper pint containers she uses. “The pint containers are the item we use the most of and they have increased by 50 per cent,” Mok says. 

There has also been a spike in key dairy ingredients. “Cream and butter has increased in price by more than 20 per cent while sugar is up 17 per cent,” she says.

As a small-scale business, Mok says that Moo Shu has to be more efficient in how it makes ice cream and other food. 

“At Moo Shu, there is not much more we can do beyond riding the wave and becoming more conservative with our planning,” Mok says. “The main way we are making do with inflation is by being more strategic with what projects and expenses we take on.” 

Back at The Merry Dairy, Haley says that, since opening the ice cream business in 2012, she has worked five days a week during the winter and seven days during the summer. Despite recent challenges, she still enjoys what she does.

“Seeing the joy and excitement customers have when they enjoy a scoop is why I work here,” Haley says. 

Sophia Adams is a journalism student at Algonquin College and joins OBJ on an internship.

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