Author: Alexa Bonsey
If you’ve been following our journey at Blue Ridge Hemp, you’ve probably noticed how much we enjoy forging collaborations with other local businesses!
This is one of the aspects of Blue Ridge Hemp that brings us the most pride. In partnerships, we have the opportunity to bring our knowledge about CBD and skills in using CBD to the table, where we can combine them with the unique skills and knowledge of others.
This Friday, we will be celebrating our newest partnership: in collaboration with local ice creameryThe Hop, we’re releasing vegan CBD Oil Hemp Milk Ice Cream!
We’re so grateful to be working with this awesome local business, and want to share a little more with you about its story!
Growing The Hop
Ashley moved from Birmingham, AB to Asheville in 2003 to attend UNCA, where she met Greg (her now husband and co-owner). After looking around for jobs, she got hired to work at The Hop under its previous ownership, where she managed the business for 5 years. Toward the end of her time as manager, the previous owners were struggling to keep the business afloat, and decided to sell it to Ashley and Greg.
In 2008, Ashley and Greg became The Hop’s 5th owners! At this time, The Hop had a single location on Merrimon Ave, where the ice cream was both made and sold.
Ashley and Greg worked tirelessly to pull the business back into success. In 2010, things were thriving and they were able to purchase an existing ice cream shop in West Asheville. They transformed the space into The Hop West, and were then able to sell ice cream from both locations. In 2014, they were able to take another big step and opened their third location, the creamery, where 70% — 80% of the ice cream is produced.
Now, in their 10th year as owners and the business’s 40th year of operation, all three locations have blossomed into an integral part of the Asheville community!
Why Ice Cream?
Ashley’s passion for ice cream began at a young age.
She learned to cook and bake as a child; her grandmothers and aunts were talented cooks and passed their skills onto her.
She lived near the Blue Bell Creamerie factory in Texas, and a staple dessert in her home was ice cream from the factory with her mom’s chocolate pudding on top. Ashley recalls with fondness, “I grew up on the sweet side of food!”
Now in her adult life, The Hophas been a meaningful place for her to cultivate her love of working with food and sweet treats.
“When I started working at The Hop, I really enjoyed the process of making ice cream, and the flexibility of being able to create flavors.”
Ashley and Greg go above and beyond to experiment with their ice cream and make it accessible to people with all palates and dietary restrictions.
The previous owners had many delicious dairy flavors and a few vegan recipes with rice and soy milk bases, but Ashley wanted to take this a step further.
“We really wanted to try and expand what people were used to finding in an ice cream.”
Knowing that soy had some negative health associations, she began experimenting with coconut milk as a base, and then almond milk. Once they bought and furnished the Creamery in 2014, she and Greg began making their own nut milks in house from fresh and raw nuts.
Since then, they have used around 20 different vegan bases for their ice cream — everything from hemp milk, to pepita pumpkin milk, to banana base, and more! They even concocted a vegan sugar-free ice cream to accommodate that niche dietary restriction.
Under Ashley’s and Greg’s compassionate and creative ownership, The Hop offers a little something for everyone.
Ashley’s and Greg’s compassion and attentiveness to the needs of their community goes beyond flavors. They offer up The Hop’s original space for various community events, since its size can accommodate a fair amount of people.
“We really wanted to build a business that incorporated the community. We wanted this store to be a meeting place, a gathering place, for people of all different backgrounds.”
The Merrimon location is home to a number of family events, including kids’ musical performances and poetry readings. Local nonprofits also use the space for meetings and events. Ashley and Greg feel grateful to be able to support and raise awareness for local causes that don’t necessarily have the space to host those events on their own.
“That’s what we are passionate about: making people happy and helping people. Ice cream is actually a great vessel for that because. . . ice cream is a treat, whether you’re having a bad day, or a good day, it’s something that you reward yourself with.”
The Partnership with Blue Ridge Hemp
Our partnership with The Hopblossomed from an existing mutual partnership with one of our other collaborators, Dobra Tea. We had been working with Andrew to make hemp soda, and had a few other projects in the works.
Dobra’s owner, Andrew, is a good friend of Ashley’s and Greg’s, and urged them to consider playing with hemp in their ice cream production.
“From the first day of the hemp [sodas], [Andrew] was putting a bug in our ears to make ice cream with hemp!”
Ashley was interested, but thought it would be more of a possibility down the line. A few months later, she and Andrew were collaborating on a “flight night” at the Creamery where all of the ice cream flavors would be influenced by flavors from Dobra Tea. At a meeting to plan the event, Andrew made the final push for hemp ice cream and put Ashley in touch with Will. That very same day, Will happened to be in West Asheville and was able to swing by their meeting. It was a perfect alignment of circumstances and people.
“Will has told me about manifesting what you want to happen, and it really felt like that was happening — that it all just fell into place really quickly and it was natural, like we had been planning it all along.”
The CBD Oil Hemp Ice Cream is made through several key steps:
First, Ashley takes the Blue Ridge Hemp hemp flower and blends it into powder in a food processor. She then heats the powder in safflower oil (which is the base for all of The Hop’s vegan ice creams) to extract the CBD oil. Once this oil is prepared, she soaks hemp seeds and blends the mixture to create hemp milk. She then mixes the safflower oil, hemp milk, some vanilla, and some sweetener, and spins it in the ice cream machine to thicken.
Ashley and Greg are thrilled to be cultivating a relationship with Blue Ridge Hemp and supporting North Carolina’s hemp industry.
“I love that NC has the hemp pilot program — I think it’s great that [the program]. . . is shaking off the negative connotation that hemp and the cannabis plant has had.”
If you’re local to Asheville, help us celebrate this collaboration and the benefits of cannabis by swinging by one of The Hop’s three locations (or all three, for triple-the-deliciousness!). You can get in on the goodness at the following times:
• 11am — 10pm at 640 Merrimon Ave
• 12am — 11pm at The Hop West
• 3pm — 9pm at The Hop Ice Creamery
We hope to see you there!