Cherry-Pick: Premium Ice Cream in the Heart of Grove Street
“Cherry pick” means to selectively choose something from several options and taking care to make the best possible choice. This is exactly what Filza Tayyuba and Mai Zia did when they decided to open Cherry-Pick located at 305A Grove St.
Filza, who has made Jersey City her home for nearly fifteen years, wanted to start a local business; however, she wasn’t sure what sort. She wanted to fill a need within the community — to give people something they wanted but maybe didn’t yet know they wanted.
Grove Street has every sort of food imaginable — Pakistani, Thai, Middle Eastern, American — but what did people eat for dessert? In the neighborhood, there are a few other gourmet ice cream and yogurt shops, including Torico’s and Downtown Yogurt, but they are a few blocks away. And so, on June 14, 2014, Cherry-Pick was born.
The shop is a bright little spot nestled between a Latin diner and Halal food market. With its shimmering lights, cheery cherry logo and lime green folding chairs, it’s interior is modern in a way reminiscent of a Pinkberry shop. However, unlike a chain, Cherry-Pick offers premium ice cream with a local focus and friendly family management — Filza’s family.
Filza, herself, is an unlikely owner for an ice cream shop. For one thing, she doesn’t eat her own product.
“I don’t like ice cream at all!” she laughed when asked whether working behind an ice cream counter meant being constantly faced with temptation. That’s why she started the business with her friend Mai Zia.
“Mai is the ice cream person,” while Filza is the sales person. Together, they are the palate and the brain of the operation.
Filza’s initial wish to open a local business came from her experience working in anti-money laundering consulting. “You are working like you are in a sweatshop — ten, twelve hours a day. And you have to do it because of meeting the deadlines.” After more than a decade in that line of work, Filza was ready to work toward her own deadlines with her own business. Now she serves customers in the evening, taking over from her son who opens the store during the day.
When Mai and Filza were first opening the shop, their biggest challenge was finding just the right ice cream to serve. “We were not going to compromise on the quality or the taste,” Filza said. She and Mai spent months combing the tri-state area to find the best-tasting ice cream that would still be affordable while using the most natural or organic, hormone-free ingredients. They also wanted to have selections that were geared to people looking for healthier alternatives including gluten-free and dairy-free and options that have no sugar added. Ultimately, they chose two suppliers: Emack & Bolios (emackandbolios.com) and Jane’s Ice Cream (janesicecream.com).
To keep things fresh their selection of flavors rotate frequently. When asked what were their most popular flavors, Filza answered without hesitation: Salted Caramel Chocolate Pretzels and Chai.
“People can’t get enough,” she declared, hurrying to pull out two tasting spoons.
The salted caramel chocolate pretzel flavor was creamy, sweet, salty and just a little bit crunchy — essentially every flavor and texture you could want rolled up into one scoop. However, the chai flavor was the one that really made an impression: it tasted just like a chai latte, only rather than being warm and comforting — like the drink — the ice cream was cool and soothing and oh-so-creamy.
As can be expected, business is slow in wintertime. “Today I had four or five customers,” said Filza. “But for this time of year, that’s good!” She’s not idle, though; she is busy planning for summer: ordering equipment, updating furniture for outdoor seating.
“Another favorite [summer treat] is our lemonade,” Filza says. “We have our own family recipe. It’s a different taste, but it is lemonade. And people love it!”
Once the weather gets warmer, “The entire shop is full, right out the door,” says Filza. And they’re not just in line for ice cream. Cherry-Pick also offers smoothies, juices and hand-pressed flavored lemonade as well as waffles, handmade crepes and small snacks (chocolate covered pretzels and sweet Chex mix).
For more information on Cherry-Pick including menu and hours of operation, visit cherrypickjc.com.
Filza’s photo courtesy of Filza Tayyuba. Other photos by Allison Goldstein