It was the summer of 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brooklynites Ryan and Christina Edwards needed a change. Both were burnt out from their respective jobs–Ryan worked as an ICU nurse and Christina as an interior designer–and the rigors of parenting a one-year-old baby in their tiny Brooklyn apartment. Many of their family members had moved down to the Sarasota area, leaving them feeling isolated and alone in the Big Apple. So they packed up their car and followed suit. 

Back in Brooklyn, the Edwards had found solace in ice cream. Not in downing pints of Ben & Jerry’s like most people, but in making it. “We started making ice cream as a hobby about 10 years ago. We would just bring it to birthday parties, family get-togethers, holidays and people went crazy for it,” says Ryan. They always had the thought of opening up an ice cream shop, but it just didn’t feel like a good idea in New York because it’s so seasonal. “We were just testing it out and having fun with it,” adds Christina. “I like to bake so we were trying all different types of mix-ins from cookies to roasted pistachios. We were like okay, maybe one day this could be a thing, but it was never as if we were planning to open an ice cream shop in x-amount of years.” 

Upon arriving in Florida, the Edwards family went back to their lives. Ryan found a job as a nurse and Christina continued to work freelance as an interior designer for a firm in New York. But things weren’t quite right. The couple still had a love for crafting homemade, high-quality ice cream and Ryan wasn’t happy with his career. So they built a cart in their garage while their daughter was napping, and got to work selling their homemade ice cream at local farmers markets in the area. Just like that, Great Heights Creamery was born. 

Photography by Wes Roberts

On April 20, the couple opened their first brick and mortar location, a roughly 1,300 square foot storefront in the Rosemary District. The ice cream at Great Heights Creamery, however, is no normal ice cream. It all starts with the base, made from scratch using grass-fed dairy from the local business Dakin Dairy Farms. “The fact that we make our base from scratch is not very common. Probably 90% of ice cream shops don’t even make their own ice cream, they just get it from the distributor and then resell it. That’s why you get the same exact flavors in every ice cream shop you go into, because they're not making it themselves,” says Ryan. While making ice cream completely from scratch is an intense labor of love, it’s definitely worth it. “It creates the best, creamiest, most amazing ice cream,” says Christina. 

Their diligence is what allows the couple to make such distinct and delicious flavors. There are 13 flavors available, including nine signature flavors, four rotating flavors and three vegan options. Collaborations with local businesses can be found throughout their menu, from their Somewhere in Tuscany flavor, which uses Mazzone Extra Virgin Olive Oil along with rosemary and sea salt to the gluten-free Yes, Honey, which infuses raw artisan honey from Sarasota Honey Company into the ice cream.  Signature standbys Oatmeal Cookie is made with cinnamon ice cream, brown sugar and scratch-made oatmeal cookies and the ever-popular Brownie S’mores showcases a toasted marshmallow ice cream rife with bits of brownie and graham cracker crumbles. Yes, making it is a “sticky mess”, but it’s a mess that they will happily make again and again. They wouldn’t change a thing. It’s funny how life churns out.