Gelato lovers frequent shop with common name, unpredictable flavors
Quamé A. Hamlin
Vacations, shorter work weeks and beautiful weather may make your list of reasons why this summer has been great for you, but for others, summer has been great for a much simpler and possibly tastier reason: bacon and avocado-flavored gelato.
“Bacon avocado has a cult following,” said Mark Moran, manager of Ghent’s Strawberry Fields, on Monday, July 28. Moran even compared the gelato flavor’s following to that of McDonald’s’ McRib.
Interesting flavors are normal at the homemade gelato, juice and smoothie shop located in the heart of Colley Avenue across from the legendary Naro theater. The flavors available change daily and while customers flock to the local business’ Facebook page each day to inquire about the current day’s menu, the only way to truly find out is to visit the store. There is no phone number listed on the shop’s website, so spontaneous visits are encouraged.
The mysterious menu, unusual flavors and simply existing as a gelato shop in an area where ice cream and frozen yogurt options are more common are the reasons why Strawberry Fields has been successful, according to Moran.
“Everyone is onto fro-yo. We wanted to try something different,” said Moran. “I think [it’s] the freshness, the smells, the variety— the curiosity. I think the novelty of […] something that you haven’t tried before […] brings them back,” Moran added.
“It’s just different,” said 25-year-old Old Dominion University student Aamir Malik in describing why he visits Strawberry Fields on a regular basis.
Customers may also continue to return to Strawberry Fields to experience the unique atmosphere of the gelato shop, originally opened in North Carolina before relocating to Norfolk. With that said, the ambience is more northwest hipster than sweet southerner. With hardwood floors, canvas art pieces lining the walls, exposed brick and chalkboard menus, Strawberry Fields is not your typical sweet treat destination— visually, at least. With an iPad point-of-sale system, exposed ceiling beams, hanging lights and a metal park-style bench, the space is techie, rustic and eclectic, making it attractive to a number of age groups.
“They all come here,” said 20-year-old Francis Gonzalez, speaking on the number of her friends and classmates that frequent Strawberry Fields. “Groups of 20 to 25 will come here. That’s how we found out about this place.”
Described on its website as an “independent business founded and run by […] friends and family,” it’s almost certain that Strawberry Fields would approve of this sort of friend-to-friend, word-of-mouth marketing, but Moran attributes their success to one thing: “Freshness.”
A 4.5 star rating on Yelp, based on 92 reviews suggests that Moran is accurate in his assessment. The scary thing is that anyone who hasn’t tried Strawberry Fields’ bacon avocado gelato may actually be missing out, based on some of those reviews.
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Both of my cities have birthed gems. Just when you think that it’s crappy and boring you find something that makes you proud of it. Of who it made you.