McConnell’s to Be Sold

Owner Jim McCoy, Almost 80, Bought the Ice Creamery in 1963

With his 80th birthday just a month away, Jim McCoy says it’s time to sell the business he has owned for almost five decades: McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream.

“Fifty years or whatever it is is a long time,” said McCoy, who bought the business in 1963. “I figured physically and mentally it was time, but it’s been a cool 50 years.”

Sixty-two years ago, Gordon F. McConnell opened the first McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams shop on the corner of State and Mission streets in Santa Barbara. McCoy said today the ice cream is made pretty much the same way McConnell made it in 1949.

McCoy said one of his partners put the company up for sale on the Website recently and already has received some offers from as far away as New Jersey. “Someone has offered as much as $1.005 million,” McCoy said.

Still a crafty businessman, McCoy said it’s not a good idea to identify the potential buyers right now. He said he’s going over the offers and may make up his mind as early as next week.

This is the second time McCoy has planned to retire. He initially left the company in 1999, turned operation of the company over to his stepson, Jimmy Young, but returned in 2009.

However, he said this time he’s going to sell the company’s secrets to the top bidder and leave his office at 835 East Canon Perdido Street for good. The ice cream is made and shipped from a plant across the street from McCoy’s office.

The story goes that McConnell developed his recipes as a way to help his recovery from injuries he suffered as a World War II glider pilot during the Normandy invasion. After he died, his widow, Ernestine McConnell, sold the one-shop company to McCoy, who kept the name. McCoy said he never met Gordon McConnell.

McConnell’s ice cream today is sold in hundreds of markets, restaurants, and shops across the country in pint containers, three-gallon bulk tubs, and as private-label products.

McCoy worked in marketing at Shell Oil Co. at the start of his career. He said he had not planned to go into the frozen confection business, but just wanted to build a little ice cream stand, build it up, and then sell it. But after making millions of gallons of his product over the years, he’s finally selling McConnell’s.

To make McConnell’s products, some 600 gallons of fresh cream from Chase Brothers in Oxnard is used daily, along with bourbon vanilla beans, Guittard chocolates, Hawaiian macadamia nuts, Pacific Northwest fruit, and blended coffees from Colombia with no artificial ingredients, McCoy said. About 1,500 gallons of ice cream are produced daily at the Santa Barbara plant, he said.

The ice cream’s mixing method leaves much of the air in, which makes such a huge difference in the product’s relative density, McCoy said. A three-gallon tub of McConnell’s ice cream weighs 24 pounds. Most competitors’ products weigh as little as 14 pounds, he said.

The relative density of ice cream is described in terms of “overrun,” which is a percent measurement of air that enters ice cream during the manufacturing process. McConnell’s Super Premium ice creams are held to only 15 percent overrun. That makes them the creamiest, McCoy said.

McConnell’s makes its select Santa Barbara Ice Cream line, which includes Super Premium, Santa Barbara, and Fruit Sorbet products in several dozen flavors, ranging from Amaretto Almond to White Chocolate Chip.

McCoy said his company makes some special orders, including a Brazilian coffee ice cream with chocolate-covered almonds. Overall, McConnell’s can make thousands of flavors, he said, including special recipes for celebrities such as Barbra Streisand and Oprah Winfrey.

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