Cold Comfort

Selling ice cream to Alaskans isn't as hard as you might think.

An ice cream shop in Alaska? Kind of tough to picture, but Brenda Bigalke had no trouble imagining a Cold Stone Creamery opening its doors in her native Anchorage when she and her husband, Larry, stepped inside a Phoenix location of the premium ice-cream and yogurt company about five years ago. "I was born and raised in Alaska, so I know what people like. We just knew it would be a hit," Brenda says.

Brenda, 38, and her father, Dan, approached Cold Stone Creamery about franchising. When the company was a little apprehensive, Brenda pointed out an interesting fact: Alaskans are the largest per capita consumers of ice cream in the United States. "I don't think they really believed it," Brenda says. "They looked it up on the Internet and found out that, sure enough, it was true."

The Bigalkes' shop opened in Anchorage in 1997 to big success. Her husband joined Brenda and her father soon after. "Business was unbelievable that first summer," Brenda says. The long hours paid off, and the Bigalkes' store was voted best ice cream of Anchorage by readers of a local newspaper.

That press got the attention of cable TV channel FoodTV, which came to the store to tape an episode of "The Best Of." The show's host, Jill Cordes, even got behind the counter to mix items like candy and fresh fruit into the shop's ice cream.

Being able to get attention for the Anchorage location as well as Cold Stone Creamery overall makes Brenda, now also an area developer for Alaska and Oregon, quite happy. "My favorite part," she says, "is just being a part of this company and helping to develop it."

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