Sunnyvale residents Ketki Dandekar and Arshiya Shaikh had built a friendship around their shared backgrounds long before the pandemic hit. Both women worked in the finance technology industry, their kids had gone to the same preschools and elementary schools, and they shared a nostalgia for the Indian desserts they grew up with.
So their families were a natural fit to go into a "pod" together during the pandemic, especially after both women lost their jobs.
"Everybody needed a playdate," Dandekar says. To brighten up their families' days, she made ice cream. And it was a hit.
It was then that the seeds were planted for what would become the two women's new business: an ice cream parlor called Pints of Joy.
"We used to go for these long walks around Sunnyvale talking about it," Shaikh says. They shared the idea with friends and family and had them start testing flavors.
"We were overwhelmed with the positive response," she says.
It took some experimentation to figure out how to make their ice creams the perfect consistency; to iron out how much sugar goes into maintaining the soft consistency of the ice cream, and what ingredients are needed to emulsify and stabilize it. They don't use eggs in their ice creams and offer a number of creamy dairy-free options.
They used their business backgrounds to avoid overspending as they conducted their experiments. "We never saw this as a hobby," Dandekar says. "We had very diligent ideas and processes right from the start. ... Otherwise it's too many trials and errors, and at the end of one year, you're like, 'Where did the money go?'"
What makes Pints of Joy different from other ice cream shops is its commitment to high-quality ingredients and flavor innovations inspired by Indian desserts like gulab jamun, deep-fried dough balls soaked in sweet syrups; falooda, a beverage made with rose syrup, vermicelli and sweet basil seeds; and malai kulfi, flavored with cardamom, saffron and rose water, Shaikh says. The gulab jamun ice cream, for example, contains chunks of the doughnut-like dessert, while the rabdi flavor is an eggless ice cream flavored with cardamom and saffron, spices that are in the traditional North Indian treat.
"We tapped into a niche where people were looking for really good-quality stuff. I think that's been brought about in coffee and other foods, but probably was missing in the dessert space," Dandekar says.
Sunnyvale had been missing a gathering spot centered around desserts, Shaikh adds. They opened their first retail spot about two years ago serving only pints of ice cream at 157 E. Fremont Ave., across the street from Fremont High School. But they soon realized that serving pints was limiting their sales. Many of their flavors were so different from what customers are used to that without offering samples or scoops, people weren't as willing to purchase whole pints of the new flavors.
That changed when they opened their new location along El Camino Real in Sunnyvale in November. Their blueberry lavender flavor, which people were hesitant to purchase in pint form, has since become a bestseller. They also offer a range of other flavors, including dark chocolate and orange, sesame peanut brittle and cookies and cream.
They plan to continue to offer new flavors with the changing seasons and maintain a variety of flavors. Over the holidays, they debuted a Biscoff cookie flavor that was so popular they decided to keep it, and a cherry, vanilla and chocolate flavor for Valentine's Day. They're also hoping to add other ice cream-dessert combinations in the future, including affogatos, brownies and waffles.
"When we were conceptualizing this place, we wanted to come up with a spot where people can come with their family and enjoy desserts of different kinds ...We see that happening now and it's so fulfilling," Shaikh says.