A Provo ice cream shop provided free ice cream to about 80 Amelia Earhart Elementary School teachers in an effort to raise morale and show support for educators.
Director and co-founder of the national franchise Naomi Hancock and her husband, CEO and co-founder Jerry Hancock, began their business venture together by securing a patent for Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream in 2005 and opening its first location in Orem.
The idea came to the couple when Jerry, who has a chemistry degree from Brigham Young University, as well as a background in design and sales, settled on developing an ice cream shop that demonstrated the wonders of science.
Naomi said she immediately loved the idea. With her background in secondary education, she loved the potential of teaching children and adults of all ages about the atmosphere and the power of liquid nitrogen.
Naomi and Jerry Hancock began researching how to include liquid nitrogen in their products and stumbled upon the idea of creating the frozen dessert in front of customers.
Using liquid nitrogen to transform cream and candies into ice cream in front of customers’ very eyes opened up doors to customization and personalization that excited the couple, Naomi said.
Three years after its founding, the couple began franchising with its first location in Provo. In 2020, Sub Zero has over 50 locations nationwide.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Sub Zero has seen a 67% decrease in sales beginning on March 15, Naomi said, which is the date when she said the business can begin to be profitable.
For ice cream businesses like Sub Zero, owners depend on high profits during the summer months to carry locations through the winter season, when sales are depressed due to colder weather.
Naomi Hancock said the pandemic and business closures hit ice cream shops hard as the frozen treat is largely a social experience, a luxury and rarely planned for.
“Ice cream itself is a linger longer activity,” she said. “It’s one that people get when they’re already out and walking down the street. It’s not always something people necessarily plan for.”
With the economy reopening and Gov. Gary Herbert announcing the move from the orange to yellow phase with a desire to move to the green phase as quickly as possible, Naomi said more customers have been venturing into stores.
Support from Provo and Orem residents, she said, has been overwhelming, and simply the effort and care she has seen from Utah County wanting to support small businesses has inspired the company to continue its giveback initiatives.
Despite the hard hit it has taken, Sub Zero Nitrogen Ice Cream celebrated teachers in the founders’ communities last week.
With its mobile freeze tank, Sub Zero staff traveled to Amelia Earhart Elementary School to serve about 80 teachers as a gift of gratitude for all that educators have had to do during remote learning and the coronavirus pandemic.
Since its founding, Sub Zero has visited schools and day cares across the country, participating in presentations that teach students about the Earth’s atmosphere and the chemistry behind their ice cream, Naomi said.
“It’s really what drove us to wanting to give back to the community,” she said. “We really do feel like we’re educationally centered as a business. Science is a main theme of our ice cream shop.”
The company regularly works with Amelia Earhart Elementary School, presenting to the school’s students a number of times.
Naomi Hancock said while the coronavirus has impacted a number of industries and millions of people, including healthcare workers, she wanted to give back to the teachers whose school years were cut short.
“It’s just really very impressive and required a lot of extra skills,” she said. “They had to modify their teaching in a way that could go digital. Being a teacher myself and realizing how this affected them, I wanted to do something.”
Sub Zero welcomed back customers in a way that was foreign for them, creating social distance between customers and the freeze tanks and wearing masks.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Sub Zero has also enhanced cleaning procedures in an effort to flatten the curve. Curbside pickup and mobile ordering also are available.