Ryan Miller lived in Pittsburgh when he was younger but lived in Washington, D.C. for a while. He never could get used to the restaurant chains and the corporate feel of the place. So when he moved back here two years ago with his wife, Betsy, and started thinking about opening his own ice cream shop, Washington Road was a natural choice for him. Now he plans to open Betsy’s in March, at 666 Washington Road, in the space formerly occupied by the Autism Center of Pittsburgh.
“I like the fact that Uptown Mt. Lebanon is still a community center,” Miller says. “People still go there. Everyone still gravitates there. It feels like a traditional downtown.”
The Sleepy Hollow Road resident talks easily of his plans but is quick to point out: “We want it to be flexible.” So if people ask for something, they’re likely to get it. Right now, he speaks of having 24 or so flavors of hand dipped, homemade ice cream, including traditional flavors like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, but also including unusual flavors like Nutella or maybe even candied bacon (He’s already got a Lebo flavor in the works…how about blueberry cheesecake for fans of the blue and gold?) He also will have four flavors of soft serve frozen yogurt customers can purchase by the ounce to use with an unlimited toppings bar (also purchased by the ounce). Sorbets and sherbets also will be on the menu.
The shop’s namesake, Ryan’s wife, Betsy, is a teacher at Propel Charter School on the North Side and will help out on weekends and school breaks. People also might recognize her from her former job working at Southminster Nursery School. Ryan also expects to need seven or eight part-time employees to help scoop and hopes he can hire high school kids who want to arn a little extra money.
The store’s build-out will make it feel like a cross between a coffee shop and neighborhood ice cream parlor, with seating for 23 inside and two cafe tables outside when the weather permits. Tabletops will be finished in blackboard paint–perfect for chalk drawings.
Ryan, who spent eight years working at restaurants (and currently is a bartender at Stonepepper’s in Upper St. Clair) also has years of corporate marketing experience at companies like Geico and Comcast so he gets the whole business side of food service. He also did an externship with the owners of Remember When Ice Cream in Wind Gap in the West End and learned the trade from the inside out.