Coffee with a cherry on top

Jennifer Silva

Photo by Mason Masis

Jennifer Silva has been running cafes in Chico for nearly a decade, but lately was beginning to feel restless. So, she decided to “poke the fire” and open Roo’s Ice Cream Parlor inside the Cal Java off Notre Dame Boulevard that she owns with her boyfriend, Shawn Hamilton. (The couple also own the Cal Java on The Esplanade and Chico Coffee Co. on Parmac Road near the DMV.) Ice cream complements coffee, Silva says, and simultaneously acts as a colder menu option on hot summer days. The idea was planted in her mind when U-Swirl, a local frozen yogurt company, closed and offered to sell Silva their frozen yogurt machines. She turned down the offer, but it did get her thinking. She ultimately decided to start selling ice cream, from Tillamook Creamery in Oregon, and Donut Nook doughnuts—Roo’s specialty is combining the two. The Notre Dame shop has expanded its hours, she said, from closing at 5 p.m. to staying open as late as 10 on some nights. Check them out on Facebook to learn more.

Why not frozen yogurt?

It was a little bit too high-tech for us, but I kept thinking about the whole ice cream idea and thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea. How could I minimize that whole grandiose idea? That’s how it all started.

Can we expect ice cream at your other cafes?

No. Those stores are Monday through Friday shops. This is our shopping-center-heavy-traffic shop. It wouldn’t be lucrative. It’s more of a night/weekend treat. If it does really well, we may move it to its own space. It’s nice to have a trial run.

How have your customers reacted?

We have the best customers in town. Over the last couple years, with Starbucks coming into our shopping center, we have seen a lot of support. It took us a couple weeks to build it all and people kept asking about it. So many people showed up opening day with their families. It was heartwarming. It helps justify why we do all of this. Chico is an amazing city like that.

What sets you apart from other ice cream places in town?

Our specialty is the doughnut ice cream sandwich. It’s a jelly doughnut without the jelly, then you take two scoops of ice cream and topping and sauce if you want, then we put it on the panini press for a little bit. It’s unique and something Chico doesn’t have. We also do cones and bowls and milkshakes.

How did you come up with the name?

It’s my dog’s name. He’s a black and white pitbull and the love of my life. We adopted him seven years ago from the Humane Society and it totally changed my life. Now he’s famous and has his own ice cream shop.