There was a time when you could drive through a part of the old Stapleton International Airport, park your car, and feel your bones vibrate as planes came in for a landing overhead. It was thrilling and something those who grew up in Denver remember fondly. Paul Tamburello was one of those people. He combined his love of aviation and roadside attractions into his newest project, The Constellation Ice Cream shop, which opened in March in Stapleton’s Eastbridge Town Center.
The 355-square foot walk-up kiosk is named after the Lockheed Constellation (“Connie”) airplane, an icon of the mid-20th century that Tamburello says was the first Air Force One. His team bought the design plans to build the 75-foot airplane wing replica that forms the shop’s roof, providing a dramatic and gleaming helm at the west end of the Town Center. “Stapleton has this incredibly rich history in aviation so when we thought about what we wanted to do, when we were looking at different airplanes to use, we thought ‘this is the one.’
“Aviation has always been such a magical thing for me and my family and for lots of people. Airports were where you said goodbye to loved ones, where you received loved ones, where you sent them off to college, to war… and it happened here over and over again for decades.
“I wanted to do something that spoke to the [airport’s] history like a punch to the head! If you had no idea what Stapleton was, you’d think ‘What in the hell is this airplane wing doing in this neighborhood?’ That’s why we did it.”
Creating iconic structures has become the Little Man brand, according to Tamburello. “The saying ‘familiarity destroys wonder,’ is our operating ethos,” he says. “You can get ice cream anywhere, so why would anybody stand in line and take the time to get it other than that it’s experiential, communal and appeals to all five of our senses.”
An aeronautic theme infuses Signature Flavors of ice cream such as Turbulence, which has a touch of food-grade charcoal swirled with vanilla ice cream, chocolate pearls and marshmallows, to mimic a stormy sky; and Cruising Altitude, taking the best of airline snacks, mixing butter cookies, peanuts and pretzels into Tamburello’s new, personal favorite flavor. One of the Novelty treats harkens back to a flashy, mid-century dessert, Baked Alaska. A chocolate ice cream popsicle is partially dipped in merengue and torched to get the iconic browned tips.
The Constellation Ice Cream shop is a sister concept of the Little Man Ice Cream Company, famous for its silver milk can building in north Denver. The company sources products to various Colorado ice cream stores and restaurants. Their other businesses, Sweet Cooie’s, and Old Town Churn (in a building shaped like an old-fashioned ice cream maker) will be joined this year by DANG’s soft serve concept in Oneida Park, a Little Man (minus the can) in Concourse C of Denver International Airport, and the opening of their commercial factory for tours and tastings. Each location has the “Scoop for Scoop” program, donating a scoop of rice or beans for every scoop of ice cream sold, to help fight hunger around the world. The Constellation will also support STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) programs by donating to local schools and relevant nonprofits through each scoop purchased.