Ask a local who's been in Asheville for any amount of time where to get ice cream, and they’ll probably say “You’d love Ultimate.” Making your way through a menu from Belgian Dark Chocolate to Ultimate Sweet Cream, one could overlook their charity partnerships around fabulous flavors of the month. Their dozens of flavor offerings (available in 30-plus restaurants around town and in their two storefronts in Asheville) makes it easy to try them all. So what makes Ultimate Ice Cream the best in town? Owners Lucia and Kevin Barnes offer some insight.
Lucia and Kevin bought Ultimate Ice Cream after many years serving their community as social workers in the Asheville area. Thirteen years later, and this ice cream couple now has two brick-and-mortar shops and expanded to a separate kitchen location to keep up with the demand. Even as competition has increased, Ultimate’s production has increased too (you can find them in stores across the Blue Ridge from Georgia to Tennessee) and the product that’s being delivered has only gotten better. Ultimate Ice Cream remains passionate about meeting the ice cream cravings of Asheville and supporting the community beyond.
So what sets Ultimate apart from the rest?
“It’s our ingredients!" Lucia says. "The 18% butterfat cream from a local dairy farm and the connections and relationships with local businesses giving us the best local ingredients.”
“Whether it’s bacon from Hickory Nut Gap Farm for our Brown Sugar Maple Bacon ice cream or peaches for our peach flavor, we know it’s going to be good,” Kevin adds.
Putting ingredients first, Lucia and Kevin know they are giving customers ice cream they can be excited about.
“It’s still the classic, old-fashioned way of churning ice cream … and knowing how fresh our product really is makes me excited to share it.”
After all these years, Kevin and Lucia remain passionate about offering great ice cream year-round.
“There’s no kicking back,” says Kevin. “We stay fresh with new ideas and recipes and innovate every season.”
Lucia says this innovation wouldn't be possible without their amazing team, including the kitchen managers and couple Lex and Kim, who are pastry chefs with a love for ice cream.
“They have been with us for about six years, and the product we make wouldn’t be possible without them,” Lucia says.
Everything is made in-house and from scratch; Kim makes ice cream, and Lex makes the toppings and add-ins, including cakes, Oreo-style cookies, and helping create delicious vegan flavors. Vegan offerings include everything from fruit sorbets to almond milk ice cream, and the team is constantly experimenting with new alternatives. And the Ultimate Ice Cream family continues to grow, incorporating their three sons in the day-to-day business.
Even though they left their careers in social work, their drive to help the community never diminished. Every month they have a flavor of the month and donate proceeds from that particular flavor created in partnership with the organization.
“It feels good to give back and support the community we love so much and that has shown us love,” Lucia says. “There are a lot of good organizations in the community doing a lot of great things” Kevin says, “and it feels great to be able to contribute to that. We have a little bit of light to shine, and we try to shine it on these organizations.”
Lucia and Kevin want readers to know most of all that they are here for the community.
“We want you to feel like you can bring your kids in wet from the pool or sweaty from a soccer game. We are here for the locals that know and love us and visitors who want to know what we have to offer,” Kevin says. “We are something for everybody; we wanted to create a place that feels fun and comfortable for anyone and everyone.”
Not just for humans either, Ultimate offers free doggie scoops when you bring in your furry friends. With two dogs of their own, they know what important roles these pets play in our families. Among the many charities to which they have donated, some of these include the Asheville Humane Society, Brother Wolf Animal Rescue and the ASPCA Spay/Neuter Alliance.
Human services is an essential aspect of customer service, and Lucia and Kevin value this in their business. Offering exciting, delicious and consistent ice cream and giving back to their community while creating a tight-knit ultimate family “feels the best,” Lucia says.
Lucia recommends her favorites, the Vanilla Oreo Cream and their current seasonal offering of Goat Cheese Bing Cherry, while Kevin recommends the flavors of the month.
Stop by one of the two Ultimate Ice Cream locations in East Asheville on South Tunnel Road or downtown on Charlotte Street for a special treat, no matter the season.