Get Real-Fruit Ice Cream at this Family-Run Shop on the North Shore
Sweet As in Hale‘iwa believes that ice cream should make you happy—and here it certainly does.
The painted panels its rollup door declare one of the world’s most universal truths: “ICE CREAM MAKES YOU HAPPY.”
Sweet As, the bright and cheery real fruit ice cream parlor in Haleʻiwa, has embraced the claim and upped the ante—and going by the waves of returning customers certainly would have you believe that good ice cream, it seems, makes you very happy.
What makes Sweet As’s ice cream so good? It’s the quality ingredients (and, ahem, real fruit).
The concept is straightforward: use fresh fruit (strawberry, mixed berries, blueberry, raspberry, mango, pineapple). With a base (vanilla, coconut, dairy-free coconut ice cream or frozen yogurt). The dairy-free, coconut ice cream and frozen yogurt are made by a local gelato maker and the other ice creams are made on Maui.
Each scoop ($6 to $9) and is always fresh. The dessert has texture and full-bodied flavor—creamy enough to feel decadent, but fruity enough to be called “healthy.”
Owners Nicole and Chris Gardner fell in love with real fruit ice cream when they spent seven months exploring New Zealand with their three young sons. Dairy is big business in New Zealand, where there are almost as many dairy cows (just under 5 million) as people. While traveling across the countryside in their campervan, the Gardners rarely drove past a berry farm that didn’t have a sign out front for real fruit ice cream. The farmers had figured out that combining ripe fruit with rich cream is a no-brainer. Before long, the Gardners were hooked.
“We’d pull up and I’d be sitting in the car with sleeping kids, and she’d run over and grab one,” Chris recalls. Nicole nods, grinning. “Their ice cream is so pure and delicious. We ate so much, it almost became ridiculous,” she says.
When their visas expired, they returned to Hawai‘i and began brainstorming (at the same time that they added a fourth son to the family) how they could make real fruit ice cream a reality in the Islands. “We have to bring it to the people here,” Nicole remembers thinking. She cold-called the Polynesian Cultural Center to inquire about becoming a vendor in the Hukilau Marketplace, a few miles from their home in Kahuku. It didn’t take much convincing, and a month later, in May 2019, their first ice cream stand, launched complete with a specialized blending machine from New Zealand.
The Gardners say visitors and kama‘āina alike were eager to try it, and it only took a few licks to win them over. Some of the locals, they say, stop by every day.
What this means to the Gardners is, well, “sweet as!” The Kiwi expression is the equivalent of “shoots” or “cool,” Nicole explains. “It’s a positive, make-you-feel-good term that goes with ice cream being sweet. I just knew this was going to be the name!”
Successfully navigating through the pandemic, Sweet As opened its Hale‘iwa location in November 2021, with parking across the street at Hale‘iwa Beach Park. Plans to expand to Waikīkī and Kaka‘ako are in the works.
“Having ice cream is associated with fun and joy. It makes us feel like we’re making people happy,” says Nicole, who is thrilled to bring a taste of New Zealand to Hawai‘i.
Do her boys ever get tired of ice cream? “Never,” she laughs. “So that’s awesome!”
Sweet As, 62-620 Kamehameha Highway, Haleʻiwa, (808) 780-0363, sweetasicecream.com, @sweetas_icecream