It's more than serving really great ice cream!
At Peterson's, we feel that our wonderful team of employees is an extension of our family. Our team is therefore expected to treat our customers as if they are family and that each one feels welcomed and appreciated.
We greatly value our customers and realize that there are other choices for ice cream so we strive to make your visit well worth the trip. We guarantee to provide the best possible service and always appreciate your feedback and suggestions. Our goal is to provide a place for you to relax and enjoy yourself with a serving of Peterson goodness, in a family friendly atmosphere.
Our Peterson's family uses a team approach in order to provide you with the best possible customer service . Our team members develop strong bonds and build trust in one another , working together to create a fun and happy place for all to enjoy.
We, Tom & Jean Peterson, are born and raised Northern Virginians: Tom (R.E. Lee H.S. '72) and Jean (Fairfax H.S. '81). Until 2006, the building now called "Peterson's" was our carriage house which we used for storing the typical clutter family usually keep in a garage and shed.
In the summer of '05, Tom was looking at his last year in education after spending 30 years teaching and coaching (Laurel Ridge ES/ Robinson Secondary) in Fairfax County. With 2 young teenagers (Carleigh & Rachel) and a son (Turner) at Clifton Es, we both knew Tom could stop teaching but couldn't stop working as college bills loomed in the future. Options of what to do in a second career were a constant topic of discussion on our household.
Returning home from one of Turner's summer League basketball games one night, we decided to stop for ice cream at Woody's in Fairfax. We'd never been there before, had only heard of Woody's, but the place was packed! Just a little trailer serving ice cream and there was a 45 minute wait. The next week we visited again and the same thing, it was packed. In an "aha" moment, we said, "We can do this in the carriage house!"
The next day we tore out the garden (where the arrival and delivery windows are) as we knew if we thought about it too long we would find every reason NOT to start an ice cream business. Neither of us had ever worked in the food industry and the only thing we knew about ice cream is that we liked it. The people who loved us most tried to talk us out of it. The most common comment was, "Who in the world would ever go to Clifton for ice cream?" But we knew that Kincheloe Park had 10 fields full of youth soccer teams every Saturday and Sunday and families had to drive past Peterson's twice. Soccer, Clifton ES, and our friends in town kept Peterson's in business that first year.
Jean's brother Brian Fisher owned a construction company and completed the design and build out. Tom and Jean began purchasing all the wrong things to start an ice cream business. But through the divine intervention of our Lord, a man was placed in our lives that put us on the right path and taught us the basics of running an ice cream business.
Peterson's opened for business in late April of 2006 with two soft serve machines and 3 flavors of ice cream (Vanilla, Chocolate, and the Flavor of the Week), two syrups and 5 candy toppings. The next year we purchased a 3rd soft serve machine so we could offer more flavors due to customer requests. We listened to our customers and added more toppings and shake flavors each year.
Towards the end of the second year, Tom was talking to a customer one Sunday afternoon who asked, "Where can we get something to eat around here?" You see, in the summer of 2007, there wasn't anywhere to grab a quick bite to eat in the town.
The Heart & Hand (now Villagio) was in the process of closing, The Hermitage (now Trummer's) has gone out of business, The Clifton Store (now The Main Street Pub) closed their grill at 2:00 each day, and the Clifton Cafe didn't exist. That's when we decided to open the Dog Pound in 2008 and began serving hot dogs and Jean's homemade BBQ sandwiches. Food sales were pretty slow that first year but business improved a bit every week.
One weekend that winter, we went to w wee'known restaurant in Atlantic City (business trip) for dinner and ordered french fries with our meals. They were awesome and exactly the type of fries that Tom's mom (DoLores a Pennsylvania farm girl) made from scratch when he was a kid. That night we decided to add fries to our menu and DoLores gave us the recipe. in 2009, our fries were an immediate smash hit and food sales skyrocketed. We now sell between 300-400 pounds of fries each week.
Our business grew each year but we wanted (and continued to want) to improve. In an effort to distinguish Peterson's from other shops, we decided to make our own homemade hard ice cream. There are A LOT of really good soft serve shops in the area but only a handful, in a 50 mile radius, that offer homemade ice cream.
Tom attended a week-long course at Penn State University (the premier ice cream education program in the world) in January 2015 to learn the craft of making ice cream. Now, with the knowledge of ice cream production and combined with Jean's culinary skills, we decided to "go for it" and purchased the equipment. With the addition of the homemade hard ice cream to the menu, business again skyrocketed.
Always looking to improve, we agreed the next step was to evolve into a "frozen dessert" shop. in 2016, we expanded our Novelty options and added homemade gelato and sorbet to the menu. The response was fantastic.
From the very beginning, we had a philosophy about how we would run our business. We were committed to offering homemade products using natural ingredients of the highest quality whenever possible. For instance, we ship our dairy products in from a dairy located in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It's more expensive but we feel they offer. It's more expensive but we feel they offer the best products.
We were also committed to employing young people, ideally those for whom this would be their first job. With a 30 year background in working with young people. Tom relished the opportunity in again working with them and helping teach the skills necessary in becoming productive citizens with exceptional work ethics.
We have received a tremendous amount of compliments about our young staff and couldn't be more proud of them. They make funny mistakes (i.e. serving Banana Splits without bananas occasionally or accepting "phony" $44 dollar bills and kindly giving change!) but they are honest mistakes from great young people. The blessing for us is to watch them grow, gain confidence, and form lasting bonds of friendship with one another. They become our extended family. So much of our success is because of the people who have worked here throughout the years.
Who knows what the coming years will bring!