Tahoe Creamery to hit grocery store shelves

Greg Hoch has lived the American dream to the hilt. The 45-year-old Carson City resident couldn't hold back tears when talking about the sacrifices his family has made, all for a pint of ice cream.

"I look back at it, and the sacrifices were so hard," Hoch said. "But I'm so proud of my family, and I feel like the luckiest guy on Earth."

Hoch owns Tahoe Creamery, a Minden-based, small-batch ice cream producer that is quickly on track to becoming the Ben & Jerry's of the Sierra Nevada.

But it hasn't all been cream and sugar. For two-and-a-half years, Hoch's wife and two daughters waited tables in the family's Carson City restaurant, the Sierra Glen.

Tahoe Creamery was then no more than a back room in the restaurant where Hoch worked 90-hour weeks hand-procuring the cold velvety substance that one day would lead him and his family to prosperity.

Though at the time, the restaurant was under-performing. Cindy was taking odd jobs. Hoch himself was on the brink of exhaustion.

But like ice cream sticking to a spoon, the Hoch family stuck to their dream, and the product began selling.

Hoch grew up in the ice cream business. For 60 years, his family has run the Shady Glen Dairy Farm in Manchester, Conn., which Esquire Magazine ranked among the top five ice creameries in the country.

However, Hoch wanted life on his own terms.

"I was skiing at Heavenly and I looked over the mountains and saw this valley that was green in middle of the winter," Hoch said. "My wife and I decided we wanted to get out of New England. We looked at some other towns in Wyoming and Colorado, but it was the very personal greetings from the Northern Nevada Development Authority that brought us here."

In 2000, the Hochs relocated to Gardnerville. They started the restaurant in Carson City, eventually moving up there, and Hoch founded Tahoe Creamery.

Their first big client was Carson Valley Inn. Although Hoch was an expert ice cream maker, he had some things to learn about salesmanship.

"David Goodwin of CVI's food and beverage department said he liked my product but would do me a favor: He said he'd wait for a week until I came back with the proper brochures and sales pitch," Hoch said. "He kind of gave me a practice run."

In 2004, enough orders were coming in for the Hochs to close the Carson restaurant and move their production operation to a Minden facility off Airport Road.

For the last four years, they've been making and selling their 36 rotating flavors in two-and-a-half-gallon boxes to restaurants, hotels and specialty food shops around Lake Tahoe and Northern Nevada.

This summer, the company underwent a significant expansion in their Minden headquarters, doubling their square footage and storage space while investing more than $150,000 in new machinery.

A Minnesota engineer designed a compact rotary filler. The first of its kind, the centrifugal packing machine allows the company to fill large amounts of pint-sized ice cream containers in a limited space of operation.

Hoch said filler machines are usually long, in-line systems that gobble up square-footage.

"We're spatially challenged," he said. "But this is great" the first prototype of the machine " so when we have a problem, we just call the engineer and work through it together. He's still working on the owner's manual."

The retail-size pint is what Hoch has packed the future of his company in. He's landed deals with Scolari's, 7-Eleven and most recently Lira's market. He's gearing up for expansion into Sacramento grocery stores.

"Our growth is limited to how much we can educate ourselves about our new machine," he said. "I would like to max out at 20,000 to 25,000 pints a month. But it's still shocking to close the freezer on 12,000 pints."

Although retail is the new focus, Tahoe Creamery has sold franchises in North Lake Tahoe and Fernley. The company also owns two scoop shops, one in Spanish Springs, and the other in the new student union building of the University of Nevada, Reno, where daughter Victoria is starting her first year of college.

"We've been blessed," Hoch said. "It's been a trip of miracles."

The greatest miracle being the public's insatiable desire for Tahoe Creamery ice cream. After all, it's about the ice cream: Hoch's trademark blend of local dairy products and fine ingredients. Butter fat, hand-picked fruit, Madagascar bourbon vanilla, to name a few.

"I probably have the most pride in our seasonal pumpkin ice cream," Hoch said. "We mash up sugar pumpkins and cook them with cinnamon and nutmeg."

Hoch said the ice cream causes a triple-taste effect: Icy coldness, meaty pumpkin and an after-spice.

"Someone sampling the flavor said, 'Wow, I can hear my relatives arguing: This ice cream is Thanksgiving!'"


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment