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Ice Cream Sweetens Life

Moorenko's Ice Cream seeks to nourish bodies and souls in McLean

Moorenko’s Ice Cream in McLean is more than a store to owner Susan Soorenko, it is a spiritual endeavor. She had started to train as an intuitive counselor when she had a experience in New Mexico with ice cream that changed her path.

“It was fabulous ice cream,” said Soorenko. “At the time I was looking for another way to express myself,” she explained. Soorenko soon found herself attending Ice Cream University in New York, where she learned techniques and trade secrets from instructors from around the world. After graduating from ice-cream school, she opened the store in McLean.

Moorenko’s, a bovine play on her name, offers ultra-premium ice cream that is handmade daily on the premises and caters to the discerning tastes of McLean and Washington, D.C. The ice cream is sold in some of the most elite restaurants downtown.

The store also offers coffee drinks and espresso as well as European-style hot chocolate in the colder months. “We could be considered an alternative to the big-name coffee houses,” said Soorenko.

“People come in here with childhood memories of ice cream, and we try to recreate that for them,” said Soorenko. The parlor offers around 20 flavors of ice cream a day, as well as sorbet. There are old favorites such as vanilla, but custom flavors too, such as cotton candy gummy bear.

“There’s flavors here you won’t find anywhere else on the planet,” said teen employee Todd Wuehrmann.

“CUSTOMERS WILL COME IN and request flavors. If we can make it for them, we will,” said Soorenko. Some customers even have special stashes of their personal flavor. One local couple convinced Soorenko to make lemon pepper ice cream for them. She then packages the special blend for them and either keeps it on hand in her freezer or sells it in bulk to them.

“There are people who walk in here that I know what they are going to order before they get to the counter. That’s how loyal our customers are,” said Wuehrmann.

That type of personal relationship with her customers is what has kept Soorenko going. “People use what I make as a means of comfort and nourishment when times are tough. That’s been the most surprising and wonderful thing,” said Soorenko. “How much we’ve become a source of comfort is of tremendous importance to me.”

Soorenko knew she was making a difference when, in a short span of time, she catered a funeral and a Bar Mitzvah for one family. “The fact that we are there at those moments in their life is really incredible to me,” said Soorenko.

“If they feel compelled to bring their sorrow in here, that’s the best honor,” Soorenko said.

In addition to being ultra-premium and handmade, Moorenko’s Ice Cream has other special features. “Our ice cream is growth-hormone free, and we recently shifted to a creamery here in Virginia. The mix we use is virtually organic,” Soorenko said.

Because she personally mixes the ice cream, she can control the ultimate product to her exacting standards. “We don’t whip a lot of air into our ice cream, so you don’t need a lot of it to feel satisfied,” said Soorenko.

She studied under an Italian gelato expert, so Moorenko’s ice cream pays homage to that style. Most of the ingredients used are imported from Italy to ensure the quality Soorenko insists on.

POPULAR VANILLA ICE CREAM has been known to send Soorenko into fits. “The biggest surprise has been the cost of vanilla. It’s tripled since I opened the business. It’s the single most expensive ingredient we have. I have nightmares when I have to order it,” Soorenko said.

She changes the flavors based on two factors — the seasons and her intuition. “I’ll change when I’m in the mood or when it’s time. Obviously cranberry is more winter [ice cream],” said Soorenko.

Another surprise has been how long it’s taken to get a steady foothold in McLean, even though it is the only ice cream parlor in the area. “I’m having a ball, but it’s very scary doing business in McLean. McLean is very expensive. This is a lot of real estate to carry at $3 a cone,” said Soorenko. “It’s also been a big surprise how many people go out of town in August. What should be my busiest time of year is really affected by that,” Soorenko said.

“Fortunately, every day we still have people walking in for the first time. It’s good to know we haven’t maxed out the neighborhood yet,” Soorenko said.

Diane Weber and her daughter are like many typical Moorenko customers who walk into the ice cream parlor from the neighborhood. “We’ve been here several times. It’s a good treat to be able to bring the kids in for. And we like that it’s local. It’s not a chain, so its truly part of the community,” said Weber.

Being a part of the community to Soorenko means being directly involved with activities aimed at children, such as the Safe Community Coalition. Soorenko sponsors ice cream at the organization's events. She has sponsored four soccer teams this year and is participating in McLean Day. “Kids are our primary business,” explained Soorenko.

Moorenko’s Ice Cream will extend its hours of operation after school lets out for the summer. Currently it is open from noon-9 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday, and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. When school is out, the hours will extend one hour in the evenings. Moorenko’s is located at 1359 Chain Bridge Road.