It had only been open for three weeks when Ísbúðin Valdís was making 800 litres of ice cream every three days, 1,400 waffle cones a day, and had a line of customers spilling into the street for twelve hours straight. That fateful June 23rd (yes, just this past one), owner Gylfi ﬁór Valdimarsson knew his little dream was a big success.
“My plan was to have four employees and for me to be here from 8:00 to 16:00 and then go home,” Gylfi says, grinning ear to ear under the iconic Boater hat that he and his employees sport. “I’m working sixteen hours a day and I have twenty employees, ten of them working during the day.”
Gylfi, who is a trained chef, had been living in Denmark for the past twelve years when, a year and a half ago, he became interested in making Italian-style gelato and sorbet. “Everyone in Iceland eats this soft-serve ice cream from a machine but they’ve opened a lot of gelato shops in Denmark and it’s just much better,” he says. With this in mind, he began writing down his concept to open a gelato shop with a twist—let the customers see behind the scenes to watch the ice cream making in process. He came home and opened his shop on June 1.
His gelatos are made with a combination of Icelandic dairy and Italian binding agents to help the ice cream hold and keep an authentic consistency, but the flavours are distinctly local. “Icelanders love the Reese’s, Oreo and cookie ice creams so I make those for them,” Gylfi says. The other spin is the waffle cones are baked freshly every day. “Italians would never eat their gelato or sorbet from a cone, only from a cup.”
He collaborates with his Facebook fans to get new flavour ideas to keep the fridge in constant rotation. “We take requests on our page all the time, then we make it and post that their ice cream is now in the store,” Gylfi says. Prior to my visit, I had been tipped off about a crazy rhubarb ice cream, but that was all run out. The lovely server who indulged my desire to sample every flavour even began tipping me off about secret flavours they had stocked up in the back—tiramisu, white chocolate, and liquorice. I told her to bring them on.
Facebook has been really good to the shop in terms of promotion as well, as he has not put out a single advertisement. When reminded that he has only been open twenty-four days, he pauses and then bursts out into giddy laughter. “When I hired my staff I told them I had no clue if it would be a fiasco and I’d lose all my money, or if it would just be a job for me to live on, or if it would be a success,” Gylfi says. “Right now it’s a big success. This space is already getting too small for me.”
As lines began to form out of the shop, Gylfi’s staff hurriedly called him back to the floor and I left with a classic single scoop of vanilla. And with vanilla that good, Gylfi could make every flavour under the moon and sun.
Best of Reykjavík Ice Cream: Ísbúðin Valdís
Best of Reykjavík 2013: Dining Grubbing