Sweet Charlie’s features Thai-style ice cream. It’s the first “rolled ice cream” shop to open in the area, with locations in Philadelphia and Rehoboth Beach.
Rehoboth Beach is home to dozens of ice cream, frozen yogurt and gelato shops that serve up delicious scoops.
But its newest addition, Sweet Charlie’s, is a first of its kind.
This shop doesn’t just scoop, it rolls.
Nestled in First Station on Rehoboth Avenue, Sweet Charlie’s specializes in Thai-style ice cream made on a 20-degree cold plate. Fresh ingredients, like milk, sugar and buttermilk, are poured onto the frigid plate to form soft cream, right before customers’ eyes.
“Because the surface is so cold, tiny ice crystals form under two minutes,” said Kyle Billig, who co-owns the place with his brother, Jacob.
The soft cream is then smoothed out with a scraper, and fashioned into delicate rolls. The process, “is the freshest, healthiest and most delicious,” he said, since it eliminates the need for stabilizers, preservatives and emulsifiers.
Billig stumbled upon this mystifying operation a few years ago, when he saw an online video of a Thai street vendor making ice cream from scratch.
After some research, he concluded such a process hadn’t yet made its way to the United States — an intriguing notion for Billig, who is known among friends and family for his entrepreneurial spirit. But it wasn’t until he saw its popularity explode in New York, that he decided to act on the opportunity.
With the help of his older brother, Billig bought a machine overseas, and after several rounds of trial and error, got the concept down to a science.
The young business partners, Kyle, 19, and Jacob, 21, opened Sweet Charlie’s in Philadelphia this May. They opened a second store in Rehoboth Beach during Fourth of July weekend. And business, he said, has been booming.
“We have a two-hour wait in Philly every night,” he said. “And people are starting to hear about us at the beach. It’s exciting.”
In order to fully dedicate himself to the rapidly growing business, Billig decided to withdraw from Arizona State University. He plans to transfer to a Philadelphia-area business school next year. The important decision, he said, was the hardest he’s ever made.
“I knew I had to do it, I was being pulled in both directions,” he said. “By school and by Sweet Charlie’s. I couldn’t be one hundred percent at either.
“I know I made the right decision, but leaving Arizona was really tough. I loved that school.”
Billig’s older brother, Jacob, intends to finish his senior year at West Virginia University, while continuing to help both shops flourish.
Although social media might just do it for them, their small chain is quickly becoming an online sensation, blowing up on Facebook and Instagram feeds, while attracting local and national news publications, including Fox 45 and Philadelphia’s Eater.
“It’s all in the roll,” Billig said.
Guests at Sweet Charlie’s can choose to make their own ice cream creation, adding in various toppings like pretzels, cookies, candies, real fruit, caramel and chocolate sauces, or they can choose from a variety of menu options like the Namaste, made with pound cake and fresh strawberries, S’mores Please, with graham crackers,Hershey’s chocolate and toasted marshmallow or the Monkey See Monkey Do, made with sliced bananas and Nutella.
Each made-to-order-treat costs about $6.
Customers who feel extra adventurous can order the Tall Charlie, which is an ice cream roll served on a warm, long, glazed doughnut, baked fresh daily. And fans can expect to see more locations open in the near future.
“We plan to expand full throttle,” he said. “Our concept is blowing up and we want to capitalize on it. I don’t foresee any boundaries regarding where we can or can’t take Sweet Charlie’s. I see nothing but potential.”