In deciding what flavors she would offer at her new ice cream shop, Sydney Newton used her family for inspiration.

Her older sister, Tia Newton, who makes sugar biscuits, inspired her peaches and biscuits flavor. Her mother’s banana pudding was the reason for one of the most popular flavors. Creamy butter pecan was her grandfather’s favorite flavor. And her two children, Luca, 9, and Lola, 10 like cotton candy or M&Ms — and though not on the menu yet, they could be one day.

“We like to eat, and we like desserts. I turn that into ice cream,” the 32-year-old Northwood resident said.

Four years after testing out concoctions using an ice cream maker that her mother gave her, Newton has turned her pandemic passion into a business with the recent opening of Sydney’s Ice Creams, an 800-square-feet storefront in the Belair-Edison neighborhood that seats 12 people.

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Although early versions of her ice cream leaned heavily on confections chosen by her two children, eventually Newton started incorporating the skills she learned working at the French bakery Patisserie Poupon to further elevate and complement her offerings.

Sydney Newton, owner of Sydney’s Ice Creams, hands over a cup of ice cream to Jade, 7. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Now she has a bevy of unusual ice cream flavors and novelties that she says sets it apart from a traditional ice cream shop. She uses techniques learned at Patisserie Poupon to make chocolate chip cookies and macaroons for her ice cream sandwiches. Most ice cream shops have brownie a la mode. Newton makes pound cake a la mode.

Newton’s business is part of revitalization efforts of the Belair-Edison neighborhood, which has a dearth of ice cream shops — especially one that is able to combine Southern food (peaches, sugar biscuits and pound cake) with French pastry traditions and Newton’s sugary sweet personality and fine dining background.

“We definitely need more ice cream shops on a busy corridor like the Belair-Edison Main Street. It’s important to have more commercial spaces that are family-friendly and locally owned,” said state Del. Stephanie Smith, who represents District 45, worked at Dairy Queen as a teenager and has an affinity for ice cream.

“I’m definitely inspired by my dad. He’s from the South. He raised me on grits, fatback, cornbread soaked in buttermilk,” Newton said, explaining her family’s Mississippi and Virginia roots. Her grandparents migrated to Baltimore as teenagers and brought their cooking traditions with them. “All of them can cook. Each family member, I have a good memory of something they can cook.”

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But it’s more than that. Newton regularly taps into her past work experiences like her five years at the French patisserie, two years as a traveling Broadway actress — she played Little Inez in “Hairspray,” Dorothy in “The Wiz,” and Nettie in “The Color Purple” — and 12 years working at The Capital Grille in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to run her business.

Luca, 9, eats a cup of ice cream while his mom Sydney Newton, owner of Sydney’s Ice Creams, helps customers inside her shop on April 24, 2024. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

“I think the hospitality side, and the customer service side I learned from Capital Grille and the French techniques will set me apart — not only with the food but how you treat your guests. I’m seasoned in both those parts and that will take my business to the next level,” she said.

The Capital Grille managing partner Jim Kinney brightens up when he talks about Newton.

“She’s bubbly. She’s got a great personality. She’s willing to learn,” he said. “… I can teach you about food and wine. I cannot teach you to be kind.”

Kinney recalled Newton observing the work of the restaurant’s pastry chef.

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Newton also attributes her success to her work doing pop-ups with Carleen Goodridge, former owner of The Stand by Le MONADE, a Liberian-themed café in downtown Baltimore. It was Goodridge that taught Newton the importance of networking and building essential relationships for a business to survive.

“She taught me the importance of the details — making things look pretty,” Newton said. “And not just tasting good.”

Newton’s business has many of the same clean, crisp décor as Goodridge’s café.

The space’s pastel pink and purple walls are accented by stark white chandeliers and furniture. An anchoring front wall features each zodiac sign.

A sign advertising the grand opening of Sydney’s Ice Creams hangs on the storefront on April 24, 2024. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

The ice cream shop is located in a once burned out building. Newton was able to renovate because of a state grant that helped her pay for other expenses, including rent.

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“It has allowed me to focus on putting the money I make back into the business. It also allowed for a commercial kitchen to be built so I could get the proper licensing to sell my products,” Newton said.

State Sen. Cory McCray, who represents District 45, said he worked for years to get the right business into the space.

“This is what we want,” McCray said during the shop’s grand opening. “We wanted that ice cream parlor.”

John-John Williams IV is a diversity, equity and inclusion reporter at The Baltimore Banner. A native of Syracuse, N.Y. and a graduate of Howard University, he has lived in Baltimore for the past 17 years.

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