By Jessica Frederick
Not far from Kutztown, a small family owned and operated business called Jenn & Jessie’s serves up good ice cream and other food items such as burgers, hotdogs, soups, and salads. Located near the intersection of route 73 and 662 in Oley, Jenn & Jessie’s has been doing business since 2004. They serve a variety of Leiby’s premium ice cream flavors and Italian ices. I met up with Jennifer Updegrove and her mom, Kathy Updegrove to discuss their business in the small town’s food industry. Growing up in Oley, I’ve known the Updegrove family for many years and I have been going to their shop for ice cream since they opened.
When walking into Jenn & Jessie’s, not only is it clean, but it is a very friendly and personable place to stop in for a treat. The shop is decorated in a modern farm style. A huge farm mural decorates one of the walls with pictures of hills and valleys covered with animals and trees. Across the other walls are pictures taken by local photographers of local high school students and framed newspaper cut outs of when the shop first opened which give the shop more of a friendly local feel. Another homey aspect of the shop is its collection of antique toy tractors and trucks the decorate shelves near the shops ceiling. All of these belong to Jeff as he was a child.
Next to the register are pictures of Jenn and Jessie themselves. The owners, Kathy and Jeff Updegrove, decided to name the shop after their daughters, Jennifer and Jessica. Both girls have spent a great deal of time working at the shop. The younger sister, Jessica, is now away in Florida for college while the older sister, Jennifer, just graduated Penn State University and works for Hershey chocolate as a food scientist. Jennifer says that she would eventually like to design ice cream flavors, but for now chocolate will have to do.
Kathy Updegrove is the main business operator of Jenn & Jessie’s Ice Cream Parlor alongside her husband, Jeff. She and Jeff also own trucking and landscaping supply companies in Oley, so why start an ice cream business?
“Well, there weren’t any good places to get ice cream in the area, so it made sense to us to start up a good one,” explains Kathy through a smiling face.
Over the years, Kathy has become a very well-known person in the Oley Valley community. After nine years in the ice cream business, Jenn & Jessie’s has taken part in many activities that helped support the Oley Valley School District, the Oley Valley Youth League, multiple boy scout and girl scout troops, and a variety of other organizations. They’ve donated their space, time, and money for many of these groups. During the summer, boy scouts can be seen at Jenn & Jessie’s doing a car wash or selling BBQ in their front yard. They also support local farms and businesses by selling their products in the shop. During the summer, you can stop by and pick up some fresh local vegetables, most of which are grown by the Updegrove family. They own several large fields in the area for growing sweet corn. During the corn season, the shop can be seen selling corn out of an old fashioned little red wagon by the cash register.
With so many big name brands of ice cream out there, the Updegrove’s decided to serve Leiby’s Premium Ice Cream.
“We picked Leiby’s because it’s the best tasting,” says Jenn in a matter-of-fact tone.
Leiby’s Premium Ice Cream is produced in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania and they only use dairy products from local farms in their ice cream production. Not many people have heard about Leiby’s Premium Ice Cream because of its generally small company size. Also, because of its higher taste quality, it can be a little more expensive than other ice cream brands. My favorite is their cookies and cream in a homemade waffle cone.
Jenn & Jessie’s serves a multitude of different ice cream items. First you have to pick if you want hard or soft ice cream, then you decide if you want a sundae, a cone, a milkshake, a “Jenn-Z,” a “Jesto,” or a gelato. A Jenn-Z is much similar to a Dairy Queen Blizzard; it is blended ice cream and toppings. A Jesto is blended ice cream and Italian Ice. During the season, they offer specialty nights. For example, on Thursday nights, Jenn & Jessie’s cooks up fresh homemade waffles for waffles and ice cream night. On Tuesday nights, they do strawberry shortcake night where they make a homemade butter cake and put strawberries, ice cream, and whipped cream on top. They also bring in seasonal ice cream flavors such as pumpkin in the fall.
“Right now, the pumpkin ice cream has a lot of likers,” says Jenn who also enjoys Leiby’s pumpkin ice cream.
The Updegrove’s do not make their product choices based on organic-ness or above health conscious-ness because after all, it is ice cream. They do however, make their choices based on flavor and quality of the product which just so happens to be local. Along with serving Leiby’s Premium Ice Cream, they also serve and use Clover Farms beverages- to which many of the local farms have cows that provide the brand’s milk. You can also purchase gallons of Clover Farms milk to take along with you. They even sell pints and gallons of Leiby’s pre-packaged hard ice cream flavors to stock up for the winter (because they close in the fall for the winter season). Another big seller is their colorfully designed ice cream cakes for parties and such. I’ve bought birthday ice cream cakes there a few times over the years and they’re always delicious and made exactly to order.
All in all, the Updegrove family has made its place in the Oley Valley serving up ice cream and doing the multitude of trucking and landscaping for the community. Although the ice cream parlor is only open seasonally and closes relatively soon for winter, Kathy, Jeff, and Jenn can be seen all across the area doing other things and always willing to stop and chat with members of the community. Their ice cream business is sure to be around for years, keeping its place in Oley.