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“Be nice, be clean, and be present.” This is the mantra of Philip and Sibs Harrell, owners of Sundae Scoop, a mom-and-pop ice cream shop in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Customer service is the number one priority for these business owners. Whether chatting with customers or selecting and training staff, Philip and Sibs focus on creating an inviting community space for friends and families to gather.
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“At the end of the day, being in the community is what an ice cream shop is about,” Philip said. “We represent every culture that’s in our area. That’s where the ube ice cream comes from, or the coquito, or rum raisin. Each one of those [flavors] is gonna respond or touch something in someone that they remember from their childhood.”
Sundae Scoop’s warm and engaging customer service has earned the business a 4.8-star Yelp rating with nearly 100 reviews (at the time of writing). Most reviewers discuss positive experiences they’ve had interacting with Philip and his friendly staff, including Yelp Elite Aneesa P.
Arriving right after the store had opened for the day, Aneesa chatted with Philip as she ordered her ice cream. He shared the story of the shop, helped her pick out the perfect gluten-free flavor, and even helped her snap the perfect photos and videos to accompany her review.
“I felt like we really connected,” Aneesa said. “He wasn’t just like ‘Here’s your ice cream. Go.’ He was like, ‘Hey, I want to let you know, behind the scenes, the story of how I came up with this idea.'”
Philip and Sibs see positive reviews like Aneesa’s as a key tool for boosting staff morale. When a scooper gets called out by name for contributing to a positive customer experience, Philip and Sibs are the first to let them know.
“They’re young kids. They’re very self-conscious,” Sibs said. “So it feels really good when people give them their big-ups and name them.”
Philip and Sibs spend a lot of time not only encouraging existing staff but also hiring scoopers who will contribute to Sundae Scoop’s hospitable culture. They ask all job candidates to thoroughly read the reviews and take note of what people love most about the shop. They want to make sure all new and potential hires are ready to deliver the peppy, friendly service Sundae Scoop promises.
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As a community-driven space, Sundae Scoop is active in the Virginia Beach area, partnering with local schools and businesses on events like ice cream socials. Philip and Sibs are also committed to mentoring fellow small business owners, connecting with other businesses through community groups and promoting them on the walls of their shop. In his three years running Sundae Scoop, Philip has helped three other businesses get off the ground.
“They took the risk too. They took that leap of faith,” he said. So if someone like myself or my wife can come along and help them on their journey, that’s all the better because it’s building a stronger community.
Philip has found these relationships especially important to cultivate as a Black business owner. He speaks to the fear of the unknown that can surface in the Black business owner community when you don’t know who to turn to or what resources are out there.
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“I always encourage people just to join something,” he said. “You gotta find something bigger than yourself. You have to find people who look like you, and you have to find people who don’t look like you. And you need to be able to use advice from all of them and put it together.”
Supporting Black-owned businesses was part of Aneesa’s motivation to visit Sundae Scoop. Being one of a handful of Black women in her field, she was able to connect with Philip over what it’s like to be successful in a white-dominated space. Aneesa stressed the importance of writing reviews to ensure that great Black-owned businesses don’t get closed down due to a lack of support.
“We all have to support each other, not bring each other down,” she said. “[It’s] really important to me to be able to let everybody know, ‘Hey, we can own all of these spaces and also be successful as well.'”
Philip and Sibs remind themselves every day of their commitment to being groundbreakers in their community with a mural on the wall of Sundae Scoop. This reimagining of the famous painting “Under the Wave off Kanagawa” represents a line from artist and rapper Tobe Nwigwe’s song “EAT” that reads: “[We] don’t just ride the wave, we create it.'”
“[Sundae Scoop] is our way of creating our own waves, of making our own path and making sure that we’re going to be okay,” Philip said. “At the end of the day, just be good, support each other, and help each other where you can, and I can almost promise you that it’s going to come back your way.”
In addition to the power of warm and engaging customer service, Sundae Scoop believes:
Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Philip, Sibs, and Aneesa, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.
Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pandora, and Soundcloud.
Editorial contributions by Callie Morgan and Kristi Lindahl