Why one of the most popular ice cream shops in US is opening in downtown Durham

Drew Jackson
·2 min read

An ice cream shop with a national following will open this year in Duham.

The boutique ice cream brand Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream is planning to open a new scoop shop in Durham’s Brighleaf Square.

This will be the first Jeni’s location in the Triangle and the fourth in North Carolina, following three shops in Charlotte.

Jeni’s started in Columbus, Ohio, in 2002, founded by Jeni Britton Bauer. Over the past couple of decades it’s grown into one of the country’s most popular brands of boutique ice cream, shipping nationwide and opening shops in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Nashville, Charleston and other cities.

“I love the Durham area. It’s got so much character and entrepreneurial spirit,” Bauer said in a press release announcing the shop. “We can’t wait to become a part of the Brightleaf Square community.”

Jeni’s is famous for flavors like Blackout Chocolate Cake and Brown Butter Almond Brittle and has an extensive celebrity following. Recently the brand made a Strawberry Pretzel Pie flavor with Dolly Parton and made a White House Chocolate Chip flavor for President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

According to an Eater story from last year, Biden’s campaign spent $10,000 on the $12-per-pint ice cream, though when in Durham, Biden’s love for North Carolina’s beloved Cookout milkshake is well documented.

The opening of a national brand signals a shift in Durham’s historic Brightleaf development. Purchased in 2019 by Charlotte-based Asana Partners, the district was once at the center of Durham’s nightlife and restaurant scene. Recently, a number of longtime tenants have moved out or closed, including Parker & Otis, which moved to the American Tobacco Campus, and El Rodeo Mexican Restaurant.

Brightleaf’s current restaurant tenants include Clouds Brewing and Asian ice cream shop Sugar Koi.

Jeni’s expects to open its first Durham location later this year.