Unleashing the magic of ice cream with Sweet Cow

Inside Sweet Cow founder Drew Honness’ ice cream vision

By Jess Mordacq Sep 23 2021

Drew Honness making ice cream. Credit: Sweet Cow

Drew Honness only wanted to scoop at and run one small-town ice cream shop for the rest of his life. His dream didn’t come true. After launching Sweet Cow in 2010 in Louisville, Drew grew beyond his single-store vision with six Front Range locations, including two in Boulder.

Drew realized his long-surpassed goal in 1993, while working at mom-and-pop ice cream shop Josh & John’s  in Colorado Springs while attending college.

The same year, he first wrote in his journal about his dream of opening a classic 1950s ice cream store, one with the power to uplift visitors’ days with the carefree, whimsical fun that only comes from homemade ice cream. 

Inside Sweet Cow’s open location in South Boulder at 669 S. Broadway. Credit: Jessica Mordacq

Drew wanted an open soda-parlor-styled shop with counters and stools where patrons could chat with scoopers who had the power to change the kind of day they were having.

“People want to come and see us after a report card, a choir practice, a soccer loss, from first dates to engagements,” Drew says.

Since he started scooping 28 years ago, Drew has surrounded himself with his passions at work. “I love wearing shorts and tennis shoes, listening to James Brown and the Beastie Boys, everyone coming in in a good mood, or at least leaving that way,” Drew says. 

Sweet Cow took off fast. Eighteen months after launch, business exceeded Drew and his investors’ expectations. 

Stool-and-counter seating at Sweet Cow’s south Boulder location. Credit: Jessica Mordacq

When he opened the first store in Louisville, Drew knew Sweet Cow’s trucks, which he calls MooMobiles, would someday further spread ice cream to block parties and birthday parties, and bought a truck to revamp soon after. Several MooMobiles now drive around the Denver-Boulder area to private events. 

Scooping smiles

Sweet Cow’s North and South Boulder locations feature open interior and extended counter space, which allows scoopers to welcome customers, engage them in conversation and encourage them to try flavors.

“We have two kinds of customers,” Drew says, “Those having a good day, and those who aren’t.” Scoopers aim for them to leave with a smile, regardless, with a sweet treat and friendly conversation.

Ice cream itself, of course, does the heavy lifting in creating smiles. It starts with good ingredients and solid recipes.

Drew’s Sweet Cow recipe book contains more than 135 ice cream flavors, most of which he created, but some of which derived with employee or customer help.

Each Sweet Cow offers 24 flavors with five constant staples: Dutch Chocolate, Strawberry and Super Delicious Vanilla, plus bestsellers Cookies and Cream and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. The shops rotate out a dozen flavors every two or three weeks, and always include a cereal, alcohol, peanut and fruit flavor in the mix. 

Drew continues to dedicate some afternoons to making Sweet Cow’s ice cream himself. The process is always similar, but varies based on ingredients. Banana Oreo ice cream, for example, begins as bananas churned with butter cream to create a banana-based ice cream, then Drew adds lots of crushed up Oreos (Watch a video of the process here).

Drew avoids using artificial coloring or flavoring in his ice cream. He only churns cream with 16 percent butter fat content, creating heavier, richer ice cream than generic brands.

Drew only invents one new flavor a year, instead leaning into his 135 other hits so as to not pull popular flavors from the menu board. He receives emails from locals asking for flavors that last showed up two years ago, like Peanut Butter and Jelly: peanut butter ice cream with grape jelly swirl. He hadn’t made Elvis — a honey and local peanut butter-based ice cream with peanut butter chips, peanuts and bananas — for four years before bringing it back in August, this time with maple bacon. 

Drew and his leadership team run day-to-day operations. Before the pandemic, every Sweet Cow location made their own ice cream, cookies and ice cream cakes. Three shops shared one menu board’s flavors and three shared another. But all that pivoted in March 2020, when some locations started making more stock than others and sending out deliveries to maximize resources and workflow. 

Drew hopes to expand to other Colorado locations.