Customers at Nea’s Ice Cream in Centralia will get the same service and smiles they’re used to when they visit the store at the Fairway Center. But they’ll also see an expansion of offerings, new decor and a focus on local products, following the shop’s transition from a longtime Baskin Robbins chain store.
“It’s been about a year that we’ve been talking to different vendors, tasting baked goods, tasting coffee, tasting ice cream, figuring out what we want to do,” said Shane Marlantes, who co-owns the store with his wife Marin.
The pair had to transition the store almost overnight, as they were limited in the changes they could make while part of the Baskins Robbins franchise. Now that they’re independent, they’ll continue making changes to the restaurant.
“We had stuff in place in waiting, and then all of a sudden it was just boom — everything had to happen,” Shane said.
Nea’s offers 44 flavors of ice cream, which its owners said is better and fresher than what they’d previously had on hand. They source it from Oregon, much closer to home than the products they’d sold as part of the franchise.
“We’re happy because it’s way fresher, and we consider that local compared to where a lot of (franchise) stuff comes from,” Marin said.
Meanwhile, they’ve added Batdorf & Bronson coffee, roasted locally, and baked goods from the Bread Peddler in Olympia.
“If somebody doesn’t care for ice cream, now we have the baked goods and the coffee,” Marin said. “It’s just going to be a more well-rounded ice cream store. … It is nice to have that freedom. If someone approaches us with something they think we should have, we can look into it.”
And yes, for the many customers who have asked — the shop will continue offering ice cream cakes.
Shane said the couple is considering one day making their own ice cream, but that’s something to worry about in the future. The Marlantes bought the store five years ago, and they’ve loved being in the ice cream business.
“It is a happy product,” Marin said. “We have really enjoyed that aspect of it. It’s a fun little business. Most people, they’re coming in for a treat. It’s fun for our employees, and who doesn’t like ice cream?”
As they thought about transitioning to an independent store, the Marlantes had no trouble creating their own vision for the shop. They got stuck, however, coming up with a name.
“We can’t name anything,” Shane joked. “We couldn’t name our farm for 10 years. But we do have cows — that name, it’s essentially from Neapolitan, but it’s also a good cow name.”
Following the transition, Nea’s is now offering new flavors like licorice and maple nut, which have proven to be favorites. As more people discover the shop’s new local focus, the couple is convinced they’ll become repeat customers.
“We just have better ice cream,” Marin said.