The new ‘sweet’ spot

Reilly Roberts poses with some rolled ice cream at Sweet Rolls, located at 119 East Thomas street in downtown Hammond. The store was opened in early December 2017  by Dion Grossnickle, Richard Henry and Olaf Ross. They decided to branch into the restaurant industry after running Cypress Fitness for years looking forward to the opportunity to employ more people.  Courtesy of Johnny Chauvin

Dion Grossnickle, one of the owners of North Cypress Fitness who graduated from the university in 1996 with a sports management degree, has recently opened a shop in downtown Hammond called Sweet Rolls along with Olaf Ross and Richard Henry.

“Sweet Rolls is a unique concept,” said Grossnickle. “It’s a blend of a couple different types of sweets and treats. The first thing, and what we’ve so far been known for, is our rolled ice cream, which is a Thai-type ice cream. We use it a little different. We use our house-made creams that we add crème and glaze to it. It’s full of really good stuff versus just doing an instant powder based ice cream mix. So, we’re doing a richer ice cream compared to what a lot of the places that do a rolled ice cream use.”

According to Grossnickle, they chose to open the business as an opportunity to provide more people with jobs.

“Our main goal in life is to employ people, and this just gave us a great opportunity to employ more people,” said Grossnickle. “We employ over 200 people at our health clubs and some of our other businesses in the area, and this is giving us another 30 people we are able to employ by having Sweet Rolls in downtown Hammond.”

Sweet Rolls is not just rolled ice cream though.

“We also do other things,” said Grossnickle. “We do Italian gelato. We do house-baked cookies and scones. We also do a signature house-baked cinnamon roll that’s topped with like pralines, pecans, banana fosters. So, we do multiple things other than just rolled ice cream.”

Exercise and ice cream both create endorphins, according to Grossnickle, bridging the gap between these two seemingly different businesses for the owners of Sweet Rolls.

“I’ve been looking at this trendy rolled ice cream thing for a while, a little over a year,” said Grossnickle. “I’ve been in the health club industry for 26 years. I’ve done it through college and through now with North Cypress Fitness and Cypress 24/7. It just so happened I was looking at social media a year ago and saw this unique thing happening around the world and said, ‘Well, this may be a really neat thing to bring to Hammond.’ And I love ice cream. The neat thing is, ice cream is good for the soul. Our health clubs are good for the body, but we’re about putting smiles on people’s faces.”

According to Grossnickle, Sweet Rolls decided to open in Hammond due to the city's uniqueness.

“We decided Hammond, specifically downtown Hammond, because there’s no other place like it anywhere in the New Orleans area or the Northshore,” said Grossnickle. “Hammond just has a unique feeling to it. There’s so many cool places now, restaurants and salons. It’s just a really cool place. So, we thought it was a perfect fit for what we wanted to do.”

It is Grossnickle’s belief that providing jobs is the best way to give back to the community.

“A lot of people think donating and donations, but the easiest way to give back to a community is to employ as many people as you possibly can,” said Grossnickle. “That money just funnels right back into the economy. We even try to look at hiring local people to where that money stays here in the market.”

Grossnickle credited the Downtown Development District for doing an “incredible job at creating this downtown area to where it is the place to go.”

“This was a ghost town back when I graduated,” said Grossnickle. “Now it’s a hip place. We have so many people actually coming from St. Tammany Parish to come here and enjoy downtown Hammond. That’s never happened. People would leave Tangipahoa Parish to go to St. Tammany Parish to eat and go out and shop, and now they’re coming here, which is kind of cool.”

Grossnickle said he is looking forward to participating in downtown events and festivals.

“That was one of the main reasons we came here,” said Grossnickle. “I moved from St. Tammany Parish to Tangipahoa Parish myself, and it was really cool. I could bring my family, I have two young children, to enjoy those things. Now we’ll be part of it, which is kind of fun. I enjoy them all. I just love the feeling of coming downtown and having thousands of people walking around and enjoying themselves.”

The interior design of Sweet Rolls was carefully thought out to provide an idiosyncratic atmosphere.

“The decor is really cool,” said Grossnickle. “We really thought through everything and the way we wanted to build it. Like the tables, this is a piece of cypress from the Manchac Swamp. The doors that we have hanging for decor, that’s from an old house in Ponchatoula. So, I think the uniqueness and the music, it’s from the 1990s, is a little different. It has sort of a retro but classical and old school feel to it. The main thing is they get to experience fresh ice cream that they’ve never had before made right in front of them from scratch.”

Grossnickle feels customers are the best at marketing by posting pictures of their food to their social media and telling their friends about the new business. 

“As long as we give them a great product and we exceed their expectations, they’re gonna market for us,” said Grossnickle. “It’s such an easy way to market these days by telling their friends right with their phone, ‘Hey, you gotta check this place out.’ Or if they post a picture on Facebook or Instagram, people are asking, ‘Where the heck is that?’ and when they tell them it’s in downtown Hammond, they never would imagine something like this would be here.”

Although Sweet Rolls has only been open since the beginning of December 2017, its overwhelming success has owners looking at other possible locations on the Northshore.

“We want to employ as many people as we can,” said Grossnickle. “That’s our main goal. We want to be a provider of a place for people to have a job. We’re growing. Our next goal is looking at other locations around the Northshore to possibly build a few more locations. We’re looking as far as Slidell to Covington to Mandeville as we speak.

Sweet Rolls is known for its rolled ice cream, which is a food craze originating from Thailand. Courtesy of Johnny Chauvin

Sweet Rolls also offers healthy options such as smoothies and vegan ice cream. Courtesy of Johnny Chauvin

Sweet Rolls sells multiple kinds of "sweet treats" including ice cream, gelato, scones and more. Courtesy of Johnny Chauvin