Small business owner brings sweet treats to Denver community

Sweet Action Ice Cream is a socially conscious Denver ice cream shop that serves unique sweet treats and has an even sweeter mission of giving a helping hand to the community.

Originally from New York City, Sweet Action Ice Cream owners Chia and Sam Basinger are no strangers to the foodservice industry. Both have backgrounds working in restaurants, and when they decided to make their move to Denver in 2007, those experiences helped them to build what is now today a very successful ice cream shop.

“It all happened pretty organically,” said Chia. “We have been in business now for nine years, and even 10 years ago I couldn’t tell you this is what we would end up doing.”

“We always talked about running our own business. We really liked the neighborhood [in Denver]; it reminded us of being in Brooklyn but it didn’t have an ice cream shop. We looked into opening our own and the more we did, the more we thought we could actually do this,” said Chia.

Since officially opening their storefront in March 2009, the couple has seen their business grow substantially, now shipping their ice cream nationwide, and their products are stocked in every Whole Foods Market store in Colorado. Some keys to the ice cream shop’s success, according to Chia, are their unique ice cream flavors, locally sourced fresh and natural ingredients and vegan options for those who are lactose intolerant or abstain from animal products.

For example, the couple gets all their milk from local dairy farmers, which Chia states is integral to maintaining a standard of flavor in their ice cream. Furthermore, a majority of the ice cream the shop produces uses local ingredients from other small businesses in the community, making distinctive flavors such as their jalapeno cream cheese, Rocky Mountain root beer and Colorado sweet corn possible and unique to their shop.

“When we first started, part of our goal was to have a really good product that was made with real ingredients,” said Chia. “We wanted to try and have fresh and local ingredients, like seasonal fruit or tequila jelly from a neighborhood vendor, as much as we could, and we wanted to push the boundary of traditional ice cream flavors.”

Going beyond just vanilla and chocolate, the Sweet Action Ice Cream storefront offers flavors that are hard to find elsewhere like honey goat cheese, peanut butter & jelly, coffee & donut and vegan cinnamon roll. The flavors also change regularly, whether weekly or even daily, as they come up with new ideas and get creative with the ingredients available to them.

“There is a roster of things that you can go into any ice cream shop around the country and find, and we always felt like there were a lot more possibilities than what everyone thought was acceptable,” said Chia.

In addition to providing sweet treats to their neighborhood, the owners have a mission to serve their community and show people the great things Denver has to offer. The shop gives to neighborhood schools, to local human rights groups, and to organizations that “protect the animals and environment that make Colorado such an amazing place.” 

In addition to their charitable efforts, by incorporating local produce into their products and working with other local business owners, they are able to showcase the small business community in Denver.

As to where they see their company going next, Chia and Sam are open to a world of possibilities.

“It would be great to be a national brand someday. Our goal is to get our ice cream into more people’s hands wherever they want it,” said Chia.

The process of opening and owning this small business has been an extremely rewarding for Chia and Sam. Though they never expected the success they have experienced, they have both enjoyed the journey to finding it.

“We love what we’re doing and we have every intention to keep doing it,” said Chia. “I can’t imagine doing anything else. There’s a lot of hard work, and a lot of stress, but for the most part, it’s a great gig.”

Small Business Profile