Tuscaloosa's new home for grass-fed, all-natural ice cream and hard-to-find wine will open on the banks of the Black Warrior River next week.

The all-new Moonshot Creamery is the latest offering from Audrey and Paul Vermilyea, the married entrepreneurs who opened Monarch Espresso Bar in downtown Tuscaloosa in 2016.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
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Both Vermilyeas are University of Alabama graduates who left Tuscaloosa and lived in Nashville for two years, but came back to the Druid City and opened Monarch after a successful crowd-funding campaign raised more than $50,000 to help get the coffee shop off the ground.

More than seven years later, Monarch is still thriving and the couple is ready to see if one of their oldest entrepreneurial ideas can take off in their space on Jack Warner Parkway and the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk.

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"When we opened Monarch, there were really no craft coffee shops in the area," Audrey Vermilyea told the Thread in a Thursday afternoon interview. Several have opened since then, but the couple got in on the ground floor by trying to address an unmet need and earning loyal customers with attention to high-quality service and the patron experience. They hope to do the same with the new concept.

"We love ice cream - everybody does! - and it's always been on our minds as another gap that could be filled here," she said. "We wanted to do something with this Riverwalk space and thought this was a perfect concept that could also meet this huge need here."

The creamery's branding was designed in-house by a longtime employee at the coffee shop and is spacy and retrofuturist, creating an atmosphere that Vermilyea said is playful but not childish and a departure from the more serious, Gothic vibes at Monarch.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
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Audrey said Paul has family in Newnan, Georgia, where the couple has fallen in love with the Rock Salt Milk Bar, a family-owned ice cream parlor that opened there in 2019.

Vermilyea said Rock Salt has just gotten a business license to sell their ice creams wholesale and Moonshot Creamery will be their first customer. They will offer more than 20 RSMB flavors made from grass-fed milk and cream and zero artificial ingredients.

"We love what they're doing and that it's another husband and wife who own it, who are running this small family business," she said. "Their own son drove it over today to deliver our latest batch! But we wanted the best quality and that's what we've found working with Rock Salt."

Cones and toppings will be made in-house here in Tuscaloosa, including gluten-free cones, she said.

The creamery will also serve as a haven for aspiring sommeliers - Moonshot will offer a selection of hard-to-find wines by the bottle.

"We'd just like to have the most interesting and eclectic selection of wine in Tuscaloosa, stuff you won't find on any grocery store shelves or walls," Vermilya said. "But we want to stay at an affordable price point, where our main area of expertise is going to be that $16 to $20 per bottle range."

This will include a large selection of natural wine, which is made as cleanly as possible without pesticides or additives.

Audrey said she and Paul are on much more stable footing than when they were first crowdfunding to raise enough money to open the coffee shop, but said they're just as excited - and as nervous - to see Moonshot get off the ground and they're committed to doing so in Tuscaloosa, where they've found support before and are now raising a family.

"This community has been so amazing to us and to Monarch. There's definitely this temptation to open something in Birmingham where it's less seasonal and there are more people, but we like to be close to what we're doing and we really don't want to leave Tuscaloosa," she said. "And ice cream is a risk, knowing that summer is Tuscaloosa's slowest season with all the students gone! But during our soft opening, we've already seen so many locals coming out we're excited to get to see them and spend real quality time with them when it's not pure craziness."

Moonshot Creamery is in a soft opening period through this Saturday ahead of their grand opening next Friday, June 9th, which will feature face-painting for kids, a wine tasting for adults, and, of course, a lot of ice cream.

Whether it's this weekend during their soft opening hours or next Friday for the big grand opening, check out Moonshot Creamery & Bottle Shop at 1650 Jack Warner Parkway and stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread for more exclusive restaurant and retail development stories.

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