Scroll down Twickenham Treats’ Instagram of picturesque sweets pics and you’ll see it: A container of wavy, light-blue gelato with little chocolate chip cookies floating amid the azure.
They call this daydream stuff Cookie Monster Gelato. “We were just talking about cookie flavored gelato, what flavor could we come up with,” Mitzi Dennis says. Mitzi, her son Garrett Dennis and Garrett’s wife Alison Dennis own and operate Twickenham Treats, a new dessert shop in Huntsville.
Mitzi, who does the shop’s baking and candy making, had recently decorated cookies with the image of Cookie Monster, from long-running kids’ TV show “Sesame Street.” Garrett had a lightbulb moment. He sat down, made up a recipe inspired by that furry, sugar-positive puppet, did a practice run and it clicked. Blue vanilla gelato with mini Chips Ahoy. “It came out great. We put it in the case and it was a big hit,” Mitzi says.
Twickenham Treats is meant to be Cookie Monster levels of fun. It’s also meant to be a time machine of sorts. Or at least a pause button on a time machine. “One thing Garrett and Alison talked about a lot,” Mitzi says, “was having something local that people could come to and it feels as if it was almost a step back in time, where you don’t think about politics, the world issues going on. You just walk in and have family time.” What better year than 2020 to open a business like that?
Things lined up for the Dennis family to open Twickenham Treats, located at Twickenham Square, the Publix-anchored mixed-use development across from Huntsville Hospital, in mid-July. Garrett, a lawyer by trade, and Alison, a lawyer currently focused on running their family businesses, were looking for a venture to put in 309 Pelham Ave. S.W. Ste. B-1. That’s next door to Cabana Wax, the skincare studio Alison oversees. After conducting local consumer surveys, Garrett and Alison found gelato was something people were interested in having more of in Huntsville
Mitzi was retired after a 30-year career as a teacher and administrator in Huntsville City, Madison County and Athens City schools. As a child, Garrett had spent a lot of time in the kitchen, helping his mom cook. One of the photos inside Twickenham Treats shows him around age 5 putting icing on some cookies.
“We’ve been cooking our whole life,” Mitzi says. “I grew up that way too in the kitchen with my mom, so it’s just a tradition for us.” Also during Garrett’s childhood, the Dennises frequently visited an ice cream place called Dairy Dip in Elgin when visiting Mitzi’s family in nearby Rogersville. “We were just talking about how we can mesh these two things,” Mitzi says. “They asked if I’d bring my baking skills to go with the gelato.” Garrett’s interest in dessert making was renewed after his own son was born in 2019. He handles a lot of the gelato making. Alison guides the business, the shop’s social media and visuals, down to the garnishing the gelato case.
Twickenham Treats menu is a mix of tradition and new. Rotated gelato flavors including dark chocolate, coffee, birthday cake, cherry cobbler, banana pudding, cotton candy and pina colada. On a recent afternoon I tried their mango kiwi sherbet, which was tropical, smooth, refreshing and light.
They also sell candy apples, including caramel and chocolate versions. something you don’t see everyday anymore. “I tell people it’s a happy healthy food,” Mitzi says, “when you think about an apple with something sweet.” To keep them fresh, they often make their candy apples to order. It takes about 30 minutes to turn around, which works out well since Twickenham Treats is within short walking distance of several restaurants, including Taco Mama, Mei Wei, Cajun Steamer and Another Broken Egg. “A lot of times,” Mitzi says, “people will walk down and have dinner, come back and we’ll have their order ready.”
Cookies are a big deal here. Cutout cookies, in all kinds of shapes (Dalmatians, emojis, seahorses, unicorns), butter cream cookie sandwiches, oatmeal raisin cookies and something a called a brookie (a brownie-cookie tryst). Mitzi does a rainbow remix of Rice Crispy Treats made from Fruity Pebbles. Her twist on the classic Chex Mix snack is called Nuts & Bolts. “It’s maybe a bit spicier than what you’re used to,” she says. They also make caramel popcorn here, using a retro “movie theater style” popcorn machine. Prices start at around $3 for a specialty cookie and $4.50 for a regular sized gelato. Besides some red pinstripes on the wall, the shop’s interior lets colorful desserts dominate eyes.
If you’ve ever worked in education or been close to someone who has, you know how stressful that vocation can be. For Mitzi, moving into dessert making has been a welcome pivot. “It can be a hustle to get ready to open,” she says, “or if I make a mistake and burn some chocolate chip cookies or whatever it is. But this is just not as stressful. This is a happy place.”
Twickenham Treats employs a staff of six, including Sam Fulkerson, a 17-year-old Madison Academy student. Asked what he likes best about his job, Fulkerson says, “I get to put a smile on kids’ faces all day long.” In addition to the treats, old school toys for sale at Twickenham Treats will interest both rug-rats and parental units. Mr. Potato Head. Rubik’s Cube. Invisible ink.
The selection’s intended to “get way from the screens,” Mitzi says. “We’re pretty proud to say we don’t need carry anything that requires batteries or needs to be plugged in.” Twickenham Treats is all about creating small precious family memories, she adds. “We want to create that moment where (kids) say, ‘Hey, I want to go back there.’”
(Twickenham Treats is open 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. More info at twickenhamtreats.com or by calling 256- 945-7168.)
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