As the first official day of summer approaches, we’re taking your suggestions for our recurring feature on Pittsburgh’s best ice cream — The Scoop. The latest installment is a Mt. Lebanon staple.
Betsy’s Homemade Ice Cream has been serving up its frozen delicacies since 2012.
Owners Ryan and Betsy Miller started out making ice cream at home, and the positive response from family and friends eventually led to the opening of a store that’s now a mainstay of Mt. Lebanon’s Washington Road business district.
Ryan Miller says one of the menu items that’s been a longstanding hit at Betsy’s is its Pittsburgh Pride flavor, a cake batter ice cream that has a golden hue with chunks of brownies, Oreos and chocolate swirl, to provide the “black” in its black and gold.
“It’s staggering how much of that we sell,” he says.
Like a lot of small businesses, Betsy’s had to get creative during the pandemic lockdowns. Since customers couldn’t come to the store, in May 2020 the Millers bought a 1973 Chevy P10 ice cream truck, fixed it up, put a GPS tracker on it and posted its location on social media to the delight of homebound parents with antsy children.
“We would have people chasing the truck down the street with their kids,” Miller says.
That was one of the things Betsy’s implemented during the pandemic that Miller says made sense to continue. The truck still makes the rounds at local outdoor events during the summer months.
And Miller says that with the labor environment still tight, Betsy’s has gotten “aggressive” with respect to pay, so some of his senior staff are making around $20 an hour.
“We want to retain good people, instead of constantly churning through workers,” Miller adds. “That seems to be paying off; we have a fantastic staff right now.”
Betsy’s is well-known for its quirkier ice cream flavors — the day I visited they had lemon rosewater, lavender raspberry and pear ginger (the pear is extremely tasty), as well as baklava ice cream, which has the pistachios, honey and flaky phyllo of its namesake.
The ongoing construction along Washington Road has been challenging for the businesses that rely on foot traffic — in early May there was a week when customers had to enter Betsy’s through the side entrance because the sidewalk was inaccessible.
But Miller says that since reopening for the season in mid-April, weekend sales at Betsy’s are almost where they were before the pandemic. The wholesale business has prospered as well, even as they tried to keep prices reasonable when dairy prices spiked by 30% last year.
“We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve been able to continue to grow that side of things despite all the headwinds we’ve had in the last few years,” Miller says. “It’s always been about trying to find that balance between good quality products and something that’s also a good value.”
Located at 664 Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon, Betsy’s Homemade Ice Cream is open Monday through Friday, from 3 to 9 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday, from 2 to 9 p.m.
So you’re up, readers: What’s the scoop?