Screamin' for ice cream: the rise of Tahoe Creamery

In the summer of 2008, Tahoe Creamy owner and founder Greg Hoch stood in his small Minden factory off Airport Road and told a good old-fashioned American success story, modest but sweet as ice cream.

Hoch, who grew up on the Shady Glen Dairy Farm in Manchester, Conn., talked about the sacrifices his family had made in taking a homemade ice-cream operation in the back room of their Carson City restaurant to a small-batch manufacturing operation in their new Minden facility.

In 2008, the company was selling 21⁄2-gallon boxes to restaurants and hotels in the region and just barely introducing their pint-sized retail product to local grocery stores.

With a state-of-the-art compact rotary filler, quite a capital investment at the time, Hoch was producing about 12,000 pints a month, while envisioning a future when he'd be producing 20,000 pints a month.

But that was then. Add another year and a half to the story. Add one of the worst economic recessions in recent history. Add consumers pinching their purse-strings and dependent businesses bleeding the lost revenue in the form of jobs.

Thus, like every other entrepreneur in the recession, Tahoe Creamery's success was staged to melt in the harsh sunlight of economic decline.

But the ice cream didn't melt. In fact, Hoch started producing more of it. As anyone who's been in a grocery store recently can attest to, pints of Tahoe Creamy ice cream have become ubiquitous.

The cake batter and fudge ripple of Batters Up is the official ice cream of the Reno Aces. Or how about the vanilla, fudge ripple and peanut butter cups of the Wolf Pack Track? The company now has more than 150 recipes that can be found from the decks of the Tahoe Queen to chain stores in the Bay Area.

"We've been blessed," Hoch said last week in The Record-Courier building. "We've been growing kind of fast. We don't even have time to sit down and analyze the numbers. They're coming in fast and furious."

One number to analyze is the current per-month pint production compared to 2008's 12,000.

"Now, we're probably a little over 26,000 pints a month," Hoch said.

What started as a 864-square-foot production facility in the Meridian Business Park has already been expanded by 4,000 square feet and has another 3,600-square-foot expansion in the works.

"We're going to be in three suites once we take the next slice over," Hoch said.

The 47-year-old Carson City resident said he's found a "Mayberry Paradise" in Carson Valley. What better place to produce ice cream than where cows are giving birth to calves in green pastures?

"We're never moving," Hoch said. "This business is going to stay in the family one way or the other."

Last year, Hoch hired two sales executives to help spur growth. Business Development Director David Chaney was hired in March. Account Executive Jared Clark, who made ice cream for Hoch in past years, came on in June.

Chaney said that when he started, Tahoe Creamery products were in about 10 chain stores. Now, he said, they're in about 50 chain stores throughout Nevada and California, with orders coming from as far away as Mexico.

"We're now doing about four or five times the business we were last year," Chaney said.

Already in Scolari's, Raley's, Smith's, Whole Foods and 7-Eleven, among others, the sales team is currently making headway with Minnesota-based SuperValu Inc., which has more than 1,500 stores across the country.

"Persistence," Chaney said when asked about his company's rapid growth. "Unlimited hours of phone calls, e-mails and traveling."

"With some accounts, it takes a year to get into a grocery store," Clark said. "It may take months of calling every morning at 6."

But there's something else that's made Tahoe Creamery successful. They've sponsored concerts in the park, donated to local schools and Austin's House. They're currently working with Pinon Hills Elementary students to create flavors for their annual ice cream social.

"The stuff matters," Hoch said. "It makes you feel like a champ when you're able to respond to the community in a way the big companies can't."

Tahoe Creamery also donates 1 percent of all sales to the League to Save Lake Tahoe, and another 1 percent to the Sierra Kids Foundation.

"Every time you buy a pint of our ice cream, you're helping to save Lake Tahoe," Clark said.

"All our flavors carry Tahoe," Hoch said. "We have Tahoe Peach, Day at the Beach, coming up as a summer flavor."

Hoch also announced that his company will be dropping corn syrup as an ingredient. From now on, he said, they'll be using sugar cane and agave nectar.

"We're bringing it beyond 'all natural,'" he said. "No preservatives. No artificial colors."

The three men thanked the public for its continued support.

"The public got us into Raley's and supported us," Hoch said.

Chaney said the story of Tahoe Creamery, like the product itself, comforts people in difficult times.

"People can see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

For more information about Tahoe Creamery, call 783-0808 or visit


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