NEW HAVEN — Just a few steps from Yale University’s downtown campus is Ashley’s Ice Cream, which has been serving up homemade ice cream for 40 years.
Ashley’s, which opened in 1979, was named after a famous disc-catching dog – Ashley Whippet.
Ashley first made headlines when his owner, Alex Stein of Ohio, led him onto the field at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles unannounced and threw a Frisbee across the field, which Ashley caught six feet in the air. The dog went on to make TV appearances, win multiple championship competitions and had an annual tournament named after him.
“Our original owners were just enamored by it and decided to name (the store) after the dog,” said Brian Anderson, a co-owner who worked at the shop as a teenager.
A couple of years after opening, Ashley’s namesake visited and got to try the ice cream that was named after him.
The shop has kept the dog-theme alive by offering a special sundae: the Downside Watson with seven scoops of ice cream, two bananas and nine toppings all in a Frisbee the customer can take home. Ashley’s also has sweet cream ice cream and treats ready for any canine that visits.
Lining the walls of the 280 York St. store are photos of all kinds of dogs that have visited over the years, some stoic, others with tongues deep in bowls and others politely enjoying their treat.
Part-owner Mike Kochis said he has more than 30 other photos in the back that haven’t been hung.
“We’re lucky to have dogs as kind of a theme,” Kochis said. “It’s a nice perk.”
The business now has five locations throughout the state. Anderson said a commitment to quality and consistency while trying new things has kept it winning awards every year in local readers’ polls.
The menu is ever-changing, so much so that if you try a flavor one day, it may not be there the next. About 10 flavors are kept as the base group that’s always available and the remaining 15 to 20 rotate between 200 different flavors.
Anderson said they pay attention to feedback from customers.
“We kind of rely on (customer suggestions),” Anderson said.
One of the shop’s staples, Nutella chip, came from a kids flavor-creating contest years ago. The shop had never used Nutella in its ice cream before and now uses it in several variations.
Even with all the different flavors, vanilla is still the most popular, Anderson said.
“No matter how crazy you get, we sell more vanilla than anything,” he said.
Next up in popularity? Coffee Oreo, which Anderson says is loved by anyone who tries it.
Ashley’s has also started offering sugar-free ice cream, hard frozen yogurt and vegan ice cream, which is made with coconut milk.
All the ice cream, fudge, and waffle cones are homemade and Ashley’s takes pride in not using artificial colors or flavorings.
Ashley’s Ice Cream also has locations in Hamden, Branford, Guilford, and Madison.