Hamilton's iconic ice cream parlour makes Auckland debut

Owners plan a slow spread into the country's main cities.
Duck Island Ice Cream's co-founders Morgan Glass, left, Kimberly Higgison, middle, and Cameron Farmilo, right.

Hamilton’s iconic ice cream parlour, Duck Island Ice Cream, has opened its first store in Auckland.

Duck Island co-founder Cameron Farmilo says he spent two years preparing for the development. “It [Auckland] has always been the first one on our list.”

The parlour has two stores, one in Hamilton East and another in Hamilton Central, and three owners – Mr Farmilo, his partner Kimberley Higgison, and their friend Morgan Glass.  As well as their own stores, they distribute the ice-cream through Countdown, Pak'nSave and New World supermarkets nationwide.

Duck Island Ice Cream's new store in refurbished Ponsonby Fire Station
Duck Island Ice Cream's new store in refurbished Ponsonby Fire Station 

Duck Island is known for its creative ice cream flavours, from Salted Caramel Cacao Crumb to Fairy Bread. It sells 70 different flavoured ice creams, including 10 vegan options.

Mr Farmilo says Mrs Glass “dreams up” its flavours, which he hopes will be its competitive edge in the new Ponsonby store. “It’s usually something quite classic with a twist.”

He says initial sales at the new store are already above what its main store in Hamilton would sell over the same period, “which has lines out the door.”

Duck Island’s expansion will soon include a food truck, built from an original 1964 Mr Whippy truck, one of 24 imported into New Zealand. It will be ready in two months, he says. “That’s kind of the next fun thing to bring up.”

Duck Island's food truck in development
Duck Island's food truck in development 

Setting up shop

Mr Farmilo wanted to try Auckland first because of the city's large population and thriving food culture, even though he had to borrow from the bank to fund it. 

The three founders would normally renovate a new store but instead they contracted spatial designer company Wonder Group to design its Ponsonby store.

Mr Farmilo's five-year expansion plan is to have six stores in the country’s main cities as he doesn't want to " go too big too quickly.”  Eventually, he'd like to export.

The three founders owned Hamilton-based restaurant Chim Choo Ree when they established Duck Island in May 2015 but have since sold it to focus on the ice cream business.

Mr Farmilo says they started Duck Island because there was a lack of ice cream parlours in Hamilton and because “Morgan wanted to do it.”

Initially, he thought it was a silly idea and was surprised when it took off. “I just hoped it would break even – I didn’t expect it to make money.”

The parlour’s name stems from a small island in Waikato River that Hamilton residents call Duck Island.