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The (ice) cream of the crop

Treats marks 10 years satisfying Nevada City’s sweet tooth

  Michael Young

Nevada City Advocate


Stepping into Treats is more than just entering an ice cream parlor. It feels like you’ve walked onto a movie set from the “Music Man,” that any minute now a brass band will strike up “76 Trombones” and you’ll be swept back to a more innocent time when family problems were resolved with a vanilla ice cream cone.


The décor is turn-of-the-19th century – bright walls and dark wood floors patched with metal plates, Victorian benches, a collection of vintage ice cream scoops displayed on the wall.

But then you glance up at the board behind the counter and you occasionally see, mixed in with the classic flavors, items like Saffron Rose Pistachio, Douglas Fir Sorbet and Sweet Red Pepper Strawberry, and you realize you are not in Iowa anymore.

Meet Bob and Peggy Wright, 


proprietors of Treats, Nevada City’s popular repository of all things sweet. They are relatively new arrivals, settling here in 2001 after careers back East, primarily Wilmington, Delaware, where they raised two children. 


“Arts are big in my background. I was an arts teacher, arts commissioner and worked for the state arts,” says Peggy, whose father was a judge and mother was an avid golfer.


Bob, on the other hand, moved to Wilmington after graduating from the University of Miami in Florida and worked in a number of jobs in the energy industry. “I created the first fixed-price energy contracts.”


Huh?


How does promoting the arts and reducing the carbon footprint make them experts on gourmet ice cream?


It doesn’t. But therein lies the story.


The Wrights, married 50 years, are classic examples of people who retire here from all over the country with enough shall we say “energy” to find ways to give back to the community and reinvent themselves. That generally involves volunteering or sitting on boards of directors for the many non-profits in the area, all the while getting to know the town and the people who make it run.


Peggy became a founding member of Nevada County Arts. Bob served on the Nevada City Planning Commission, chaired the board of directors of KVMR, our local community radio station, and served with the Center for Nonprofit Leadership.


They looked for a business they could start. “We got to know people around town, wound up in ice cream because it was recession-proof,” says Bob. “In bad times, it was an affordable luxury,” adds Peggy.


Bob enrolled at Penn State University, which had an “ice cream university” where he could learn the skills of the trade. “All the big ice cream guys go there. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.”

They looked around for locations and finally found a tiny shop on York Street next to the former Citronee restaurant where they could share a commercial kitchen.


It was 10 years ago this September that the Wrights opened their first Treats. Peggy and Bob spent the summer before the opening at Summer Nights events in a little pop-up handing out sorbets to drum up interest.


When the larger space for their current parlor on Main Street became available in 2017, enabling them to make ice cream on site, they jumped at the chance.


“Our motto was the basics, well done, with local ingredients. We did a lot of research and settled on Strauss Ice Cream mix, from a dairy that was the first in the West to offer organic,” Bob said.


“From an early time, we would make about half our flavors and buy regionally made high-quality small batches, “he said. We can offer more unique flavors. We have a vegan made with coconut milk and sorbets and gelato. It is a huge market.


The idea for more exotic flavors produced locally came from their friend Alicia Funk, a local writer who specializes in cooking with the wild foods of California. 


“This time of the year, we are on autopilot, Peggy says. “In the winter we experiment with new flavors.”


They are best known for using locally grown mint for their mint chocolate chip ice cream. They still have a small patch at their Nevada City garden, but there has been such a huge demand in the mint that they have to get it from a large local grocer.


“We try to use local fruit flavors and that has enabled us to connect with the community through cross promotion. We use beer from Three Forks Brewery, stout and porter in the winter. At one point, we paired ginger ice cream with late harvest wines.” 


Ten years is not a long time to be in business, but Peggy said they can already see the impact of Treats.


“When we first started, little kids who couldn’t see over the counter now work here. We have a manager and we employ 15 people. It’s a good starter job.


“As Treats, we try to give back to the community schools, and to farmers who can use the money to raise other crops.” 


They also donate to SYRCL, Women of Worth, the Food Bank and Hospitality House, where they occasionally drop off gallons of ice cream for the homeless.


At 74, they have no specific plans to retire, although Bob says they will probably sell Treats in the next five years.


“I’m deteriorating at a tolerable rate,” he jokes.


Peggy puts it more succinctly: “We have no long-term plans. It’s all related to energy.”




Bob and Peggy Wright have built a thriving business in downtown Nevada City. 

Photo by Michael Young

Peggy and Bob Wright, circa 1970. They have been married 50 years.

Submitted Photo

Bob and Peggy Wright in front of their Treats ice cream parlor in downtown Nevada City.

Photo by Michael Young

About the photo

Bob and Peggy Wright in front of their Treats ice cream parlor in downtown Nevada City.

Photo by Michael Young

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