If ice cream is a cure for the blues, then Plum Creek Farm Market & Creamery in Penn Township opening for the season might be just what Berks County needs right now.

And this year, Plum Creek Farm returns bigger — roughly six times bigger, in fact — and better than ever with a brand new building, more ice cream flavors and a new hot food menu, too.

The expanded facility opened Wednesday, despite challenges facing businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Everyone seems to have a very positive outlook," said Kiara Marks, secretary for Plum Creek Farm. "People are excited to get out of the house and have somewhere to go."

Some updated amenities, like an indoor seating and lounge area, aren't available to the public yet, complying with the state's safety orders to combat the spread of COIVD-19.

Plum Creek Farm will abide by whatever health guidelines are in place as long as doing so will put a smile on customers' faces.

"This will definitely help people's mindset," Marks said. "It gives them something to look forward to."

Overnight sensation

It didn't take long for Plum Creek Farm Market & Creamery to outgrow its original 1,600-square-foot space.

The husband-and-wife teams of Keith and Kendra Zimmerman and Audrey and Ken Nolt opened the market in 2014, selling fresh produce from their nearby farm. Keith and Audrey are also siblings.

But Plum Creek Farm really took off with the advent of the creamery in 2017, becoming one of Berks County's most popular destinations for ice cream almost overnight.

"We knew expansion was a possibility early on," Marks said. "By 2019, it was like, yes, this is definitely happening."

At 10,500 square feet, the new facility is massive by comparison, increasing space for both the creamery and market alike.

In addition to a seating area, the market side offers a larger selection of candies, baked goods and bulk foods for sale, plus a meat and cheese deli and a refrigerated section where everything from to-go freezer meals to takeout ice cream is sold.

"Starting out in that little building, it's crazy," Marks said. "The new kitchen is bigger than the entire old building itself."

More food, more flavors

The creamery is still Plum Creek Farm's claim to fame though, and it too was part of the overhaul.

The biggest change is the burger and sandwich menu. That big kitchen means items like the Plum Creek Burger — an Angus burger with cheddar, bacon, pulled pork, barbecue sauce and onion sauce — are now staples.

Don't forget to order a side of cheese fries, a soft pretzel or soup and salad if you prefer.

"We're gonna have a lot more hot food," Marks said. "We had some before, but because of our limited space, we couldn't have much."

Of course, the main event is the ice cream, and there's twice as much of it on the menu.

The number of hand-scooped ice cream flavors has doubled, from 16 to 32 — some alternating, but most available year-round — not to mention Plum Creek Farm's signature soft-serve ice cream.

"We make our own flavors," Marks said. "Every month or two, we switch out our specialty soft-serve flavor, so we'll do a lot more than that."

Peanut butter soft serve is currently on tap, available in a twist with chocolate, naturally.

Plum Creek Farm's array of frozen desserts also includes sundaes, twisters milkshakes, Italian ice and gelati.

Making the best of it

Believe it or not, the ice cream isn't the coolest detail about this expansion.

Plum Creek Farm Market & Creamery is no longer a seasonal business, so no more waiting for cold winters to pass and spring to arrive for a cone.

That's the plan at least. At press time, it was unclear the extent to which procedures Plum Creek Farm is putting in place to protect customers and employees would impact business.

Rather than see its brand new seating areas packed with happy families enjoying a snack, Plum Creek Farm's expansion will have to wait for a full roll-out.

But while opening day may not have occurred under the happiest of circumstances, one thing is for certain.

People still need ice cream — perhaps now more than ever.

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