AN OLD-SCHOOL CREAMERY IS REVIVED IN A COOL NEW SPOT FOR CRAFT ICE CREAM FEATURING LOCAL INGREDIENTS AND FLAVORS FROM THE SOUTH.
WRITTEN BY Shanna Flaschka
PHOTOGRAPHED BY JOE WORTHEM
VINTAGE PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED BY Al Fenger
Although many were despondent at the recent closing of Holli’s Sweet Tooth, now there is something to smile about. In the former location of Local’s at 309 N. Lamar Blvd., The Oxford Creamery opened in mid-August, adding to the Square’s growing dessert scene.
Owner Hudson Magee is originally from Oxford, but he hadn’t lived here since he was 12. It was the dream of the cream that brought him back. Magee still has family here, and after visiting often throughout the years, he noticed that a craft ice-cream shop was a missed opportunity in town.
“I have always been a ‘foodie’ with an obsession with desserts,” Magee said. “When traveling, I always make a point to scope out the local ice-cream place. I have lived in Chattanooga and Bozeman, Montana, and traveled everywhere in between. Almost every vibrant town that I have been to has a creamery that makes and serves craft ice cream and, honestly, I was surprised that Oxford did not have one yet.”
Magee was leading the sales team at a high-growth tech company in Bozeman — not a job that most would have just up and left — when he began to seriously consider pursuing his dream.
“I had to convince myself it was the right thing to do,” Magee said. “And after that convince my wife and family that I was going to drop it all to build this business.”
In March, Magee and his wife, Lo, packed up their lives and their infant son, Wilder, and made the journey back to Mississippi to start building The Oxford Creamery.
The name of the store might inspire nostalgia in older Oxford residents. The Oxford Creamery Co. was in operation for decades in the space now occupied by Funky’s Pizza & Daquiri Bar. Al Fenger, of Oxford, said his grandfather, Albert Fenger, who had emigrated from Denmark as a teenager, opened the creamery in the 1930s.
“He came from a long line of creamery people,” Al said. “They moved from Iowa to Starkville where he ran MSU’s teaching creamery.”
Al’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and later his father all worked in the creamery, which produced and delivered butter, ice cream and unpasteurized “sweet milk,” straight from the cow. Deliveries were likely kept chilled with ice from the old Ice House, located below Neilson’s.
“I always heard about their ‘Co-Ed Ice Cream Bar,’” Al said. “I’m not sure what it was, but probably like an ice-cream sandwich with Ole Miss colors.”
Albert sold the business to T.E. Avent (of Avent Dairy) in 1952. Photos of Oxford Creamery Co. are displayed in the new space, and Magee plans to incorporate a vintage milkshake machine from the old creamery into the decor, bringing old traditions full circle.
With Pistacchio Gelato Italiano and YaYa’s Frozen Yogurt already established, one might be tempted to assume that the Square doesn’t need another ice-cream place. Magee actually sees it as an opportunity to create a further draw to the area.
“There is a bit of competition involved between us, YaYa’s, Insomnia Cookies, and the gelato place, but we are all very different at the same time,” Magee said. “Historically, the Square has not been a place to go and get dessert. You could order one at a restaurant, or go to YaYa’s. But now that we have a few more options around, I think it helps us all out (by) bringing more people to the Square in the afternoons and evenings to get something sweet.”
The Oxford Creamery isn’t just scooping out ordinary flavors; its ice cream is made from scratch, using local ingredients as much as possible. Brown Family Dairy in Yocona, for example, supplies the milk and cream.
“Our goal is to source everything that we can from Mississippi farmers,” Magee said. “To ensure the best quality, but also to connect the Oxford community to the flavors of the state.”
Fall flavors include Maple Bacon Brittle, Cinnamon Roll, Apple Butter and Biscuits, and Butter Pecan — made with Mississippi pecans when possible, along with perennial favorites Mint Chip and Sweet Tea. Ice-cream sandwiches, sundaes, milkshakes and floats are also available, as well as dairy-free options.
“We make cashew milk from scratch and do our base with part that and part coconut cream,” Magee said. “The result is a creamy, wonderful tasting ice cream. The science that goes into making the dairy-free ice cream is what makes it fun for us.”
“Ice cream is nostalgic, and (our) classic flavors allow our customers to have that experience,” Magee said. “Our approach to ‘Southern’ ice cream will also incorporate nostalgic flavors of the South to create something new but familiar. One example of this would be our seasonal pecan pie flavor.”
Magee first dipped into making frozen desserts several years ago. In 2012, he started a branch of Atlanta’s popular King of Pops in Chattanooga, making gourmet popsicles and selling them from pushcarts at markets, festivals and on street corners. In Bozeman, he became good friends with the owner of an ice-cream shop, who taught him about the business and the art of making ice cream.
“I have since had a passion for food and, specifically, grown a love for ice cream over the last few years,” Magee said. “My friend in Bozeman owns a very successful craft ice-cream business, and I was able to spend time with him in his kitchen and learn from the best of the best.”
That passion will be matched with some serious know-how in the form of ice-cream maker Denver Bridwell, mastermind behind the kitchen operations at the creamery. Bridwell was the ice-cream maker for some time at Saint Leo but is now at The Oxford Creamery full-time.
“At The Oxford Creamery, we are always creating and trying to raise the bar for what ice cream can be,” Bridwell said. “Creating new flavors to be both nostalgic and new is the most fun part of the process. A chef speaks through the food that they make, and I have a lot to say!”
Magee plans to cater events such as weddings and parties with an “ice-cream bike.” Look for the bike soon at markets and festivals in the area. For updates, check Instagram @theoxfordcreamery.