If you walk down North Duke Street, and you smell something delicious, something warm and sweet and cinnamon, don’t just sigh and wish you were in that kitchen, wherever it is. Don’t just keep stolidly walking to your destination as the smell follows you down the block. Do yourself a favor: stop, pivot and look for the Lancaster Sweet Shoppe, which has been not-so-innocently piping the smell out to you ever since it opened on May 27.
I mean it—the Shoppe is literally piping the smell onto the street to entice you, and why shouldn’t it? There’s nothing wrong with satisfying a craving for a gooey Stroopie, which are made fresh on site every day. (Don’t know what a Stroopie is? Keep reading, you poor soul.) Of course, once you step inside the space at 141 N. Duke, you’ll realize you might be craving some chocolate and some ice cream, too.
Don’t be put off by the Shoppe’s crafty tactics. The team at the Shoppe—co-owners Jonathan, Jennie and Marvin Groff, and Chad Martin—just want to share something sweet with you and with all of Lancaster. Jonathan and Jennie, part owners of Stroopies Inc., have been wanting a storefront in Lancaster for a while now, and when their tenants The Black Comb barbershop wanted to move to a bigger space, they realized it was the perfect opportunity. It was a natural decision to join forces with their brother, Marvin, who owns Groff’s Candies.
“I dip my Stroopies in his dark chocolate,” explains Jonathan. Martin’s role is to keep them all focused and organized, says Jonathan, to make sure decisions get made and things get done. But there was an ingredient missing.
“Summertime’s pretty slow for both of us; we thought, maybe we should do ice cream,” says Jonathan. So the shop made an agreement to sell ice cream from Pine View Dairy, which is owned by family friends of the Groffs.
With the winning combination of chocolate, ice cream and Stroopies ready to go (be patient, you unenlightened), the team gutted the existing space and created a new space where everything down to the paint colors and air vents is intentionally designed. The shop is a stylish play of contrasts: white paint and dark old wood, gleaming glass and red brick.
“It’s a mix of sophisticated and earthy,” says Jonathan.
The same could be said for the food. “We wanted to hit something that was unique and upscale and really gourmet, but at the same time affordable,” says Jonathan, pointing out that going out to eat or even getting a treat with multiple kids in tow can quickly get pricey. That’s why they offer a mini dip cone for $1.79, and why you can buy single chocolates and single Stroopies. It’s also good to keep from gorging yourself, I say.
Okay, if you’re reading this and don’t know what a Stroopie is (hiya, transplants!), I’ll explain, the same way Jonathan explained them to me, letting me behind the counter.
Only a handful of companies make Stroopies in the US; as Jonathan himself says, “Half the battle is marketing Stroopies, letting people know what they are.”
So: a Stroopie starts off its short life as a cinnamon cookie dough ball. It is placed in a special stroopwafel iron, which looks similar to a waffle iron, but with a much smaller grid.
“These irons came from Holland; you can’t find an iron like this in the US,” says Jonathan. The timed irons automatically open with a cool pneumatic hiss, revealing the very flat and thin Stroopie pancake. This baby is placed into a custom cutting machine that first punches out a clean circle, dropping the raw edges and crumbs into a container below, and then slices each thin circle through the center into two even thinner circles.
“We used to do it all with a cookie cutter and a knife, but after doing this 500 times, we started to feel like it was getting old really quick, so we wanted to make it a more enjoyable experience,” says Jonathan. Last, but not least, one half of the Stroopie is slathered in homemade caramel sauce, the other half is popped back on top, and from that point on the Stroopie’s life expectancy is short.
There’s one thing that helps keep the Sweet Shoppe’s Stroopies live a little bit longer, though, and that’s their competition. The choice can be difficult when the shop is also offering 20-some different chocolates and about 20 flavors of ice cream. You have all the types of chocolates and chocolate-covered things you could possibly want: peanut butter meltaways, toffee, almond bark, pretzels, salted caramels, marshmallows and more. For the cold delights, there are also several signature sundaes on offer. Remember those Stroopie crumbs from before? They aren’t wasted—they’re used for the Stroopie crumb sundae, and also in a special Stroopie-flavored ice cream that the team developed with Pine View Dairy. But if you just can’t choose, try a Stroopie ice cream sandwich ($4.95). It’s exactly as it sounds: two fresh Stroopies with a slab of ice cream in the middle.
Now, if you’re afraid to step in the door at the Lancaster Sweet Shoppe because you’re afraid of how guilty you’ll feel when you step out the door a half a pound heavier, don’t worry. The shop has something up its sleeve to assuage any potential guilt: some serious ethical commitments and humanitarian endeavors. Stroopies Inc. is actually classified as a B Corp:
“It’s basically a legal commitment to not just make the profit the bottom line, but to make the common good the bottom line,” Jonathon explains. “It takes accountability to a whole other level. Honestly, our attorney advised us not to do it.”
One of the ways in which Stroopies Inc. stays true to its B Corp status is by employing refugees. If you drop by the Shoppe in the morning, chances are you’ll see at least one refugee at work, unless they’re in the middle of the half-hour paid English lesson that they get with every shift.
“Being able to work in a place where they can get some exposure, can talk to people, is helpful,” says Jonathan. Not only does the job teach them English, it also teaches them invaluable work skills and familiarizes them with the way businesses operate in the U.S. “We want to see them grow into more responsibility and opportunities,” Jonathan says.
So remember the good that’s happening through the Lancaster Sweet Shoppe as you settle down under hanging lights on the cozy new patio out in the back of the store, licking away at your ice cream to keep it from coating your hand, experiencing your first Stroopie or just savoring a sampling of chocolates. And speaking of samples, the Shoppe is open now, but brace yourself for their grand opening on Thursday, June 9, where you’ll be able to snag samples of the free variety. There will also be live music, loyalty cards, door prizes, and a photo display of the transformative construction process of the Shoppe. What better way to kick off summer?