SLUSH SISTERS Kali Douglass, a long-time employee of Amy's Wicked Slush, looks to owner Amy Covin (right) during a break in a busy lunch-hour at the original Healdsburg location. The popular soft ice cream stop may close at the end of the Labor Day weekend, on Sept. 4.

Amy Covin, who parlayed a life-long affection for Boston-style “slush”—a fruity ice confection with drizzles, sprinkles and playful attitude—into a Healdsburg dessert destination, announced over the weekend that she would be closing the flagship shop in early September.

“I think we outgrew this facility the day before we opened in 2017,” said Covin in a social media post on Aug. 19. “There are some serious infrastructure issues that make it too difficult and too expensive to keep this location open.”

To judge by the eager lunch-time crowd of children, parents and pets, the Memorial Beach location isn’t closing due to any lack of popularity—it’s got five solid stars with a slew of eager endorsements on Yelp—and the foot traffic only lets up when the sun goes down, and sometimes not even then.

So it’s a safe bet that folks will be eagerly lining up from now until the last day of Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 4, to savor the flavorful icy sweetness of the diner’s offerings—the signature Slush, the soft-serve Straus Dairy ice cream and the mixture of the two called the Split.

Although the business at 13840 Healdsburg Ave., just across the street from Veterans Memorial Beach Regional Park, was put on the market earlier this year, it has yet to find a buyer.

Still, there’s a slim possibility that it will find one before the end of the month and remain open—perhaps changing the name, perhaps changing the business and perhaps not.

“But whether they do or not doesn’t change that it’s time for me,” said Covin, during a brief lull in the mid-week lunch trade. “It’s a little heart-breaking and a little bittersweet, but I’m also kind of looking forward to not going through this every day.” 

There were only two people working the lunch hour, Kali Douglass and Covin herself, and it was hectic, with clusters of thirsty/hungry friends and relations milling about the porch, comparing their treats. Said Covin, “We’re normally better staffed, but this time of year when everybody’s going back to school…”

Leaving an Impact

Without a doubt, Amy’s Wicked Slush has had an impact on Healdsburg. As the site of a river canoe rental operation formerly run by Lolly Mercer (Russian River Canoe and Kayak, now just down the road next to the river itself), it hasn’t been a sleepy location for years. But Amy’s Wicked Slush became so popular they had to hand out flags to patrons crossing the often-busy avenue to get speeding, distracted drivers to slow down.

About the name? Well, back east “wicked” is an adjective of emphasis, like “very” or “cool.” (A handy east-west lexicon is on the businesses website at amyswickedslush.com, including not just wicked/very, but tonic/soda pop, dungarees/jeans, rotary/roundabout.)

Unsurprisingly, Covin is from Boston, or nearby at any rate. “I always say I’m from the north end, but I just say it because no one’s ever heard of where I’m from, a tiny little town called Everett. And in Everett there’s a little slush shop right on a big parkway that I grew up around the corner from. I grew up on that stuff and loved it,” she said.

“When I went back east on that family reunion, I couldn’t believe they were still in business, after 40 years out of town,” Covin recalled. Indeed, Richie’s Slush on the Revere Beach Parkway claims 67 years in business. “It was every bit as good as I could remember,” she said.

Back on the West Coast, “I had some problems in my office; I had an employee that got addicted to drugs, and my home had burned down, and my office was in my home. This was 2014. I think I was just ready to make a change,” she said. So she “jumped off the roof” and decided to open a slush business in her adopted town of Healdsburg.

“About three weeks later, I looked up and said, ‘What is slush?  And how do you make it anyway?’” she remembered.

ORDER HERE Kali Douglass fulfills an order at the main window of Wicked Slush, a soft ice-cream emporium that is closing after 7 years at its popular Healdsburg location.

Evidently she figured it out. The Healdsburg location was a raging success almost from the day it opened, in 2016; before long a Wicked Slush opened in Novato, and the Sonoma Fun Center in Maxwell Village began to offer Wicked Slush along with its outdoor mini golf and indoor arcade.

A Wicked Slush in Petaluma, though originally a franchise location, changed its name and was reinvented as Once Upon a Slush in 2022. “We parted ways in 2022 under fairly contentious circumstances,” she said. 

Covin said although the other locations are not included in any sale, “The locations will be free to operate outside the franchise system with my full approval and support.”

There’s also a Wicked on Wheels “Slush Truck” that migrates between outdoor events—lately seen at several Prune Packers games over the summer. More hush-hush are Slushtails, alcohol-infused treats that were until recently available at the Poppy Bank Epicenter in Santa Rosa.

Even if these other locations don’t go with the sale of the original Amy’s Wicked Slush in Healdsburg, it was clearly Amy Covin who brought Slush to Sonoma County. And if it’s Wicked to boot, all the better.

Love and Money 

“It’s been for sale for some time,” admitted Covin. “Some of the limits on the property are infrastructure kinds of things; certainly the property is going to need some love shown to it.”

“We’ve got the store, we’ve got the mobile operations, we have the franchises—there’s a lot of moving parts for someone to step into,” said Covin. “We developed it from the ground up, and even then it was fast and furious.”

Which is not to say they haven’t had offers. Asking price for the 1,242 square foot building and .45 acre lot is $700,000, a bargain in today’s Healdsburg. But finding someone who has both the money and the willingness to “work their asses off” hasn’t been easy, Covin said.

Another consideration: The business is close enough to the river that the homeless have set up rotating encampments, and frequent calls to the police and occasional run-ins with employees and customers have kept Wicked Slush in the crime logs.

Covin is, if not cavalier, at least not judgmental about her occasional unwanted neighbors. Still, that doesn’t mean the problem will just go away with a new owner.

“No one’s walking away rich from Wicked—this has clearly never been about making a million dollars,” said Covin. “We give a lot back, and we like that. But I need to work some. I can’t fully retire, so I imagine that I’ll end up with a tax practice like I used to have.”

As she and Douglass prepare for another onslaught of hungry customers, Covin takes a minute to thank her employees. “People sometimes ask me if I’m the Amy. And I say well, I am Amy—but we’re all ‘Amy.’ Everyone needs to know that these are absolutely fantastic employees. We pay them well, and they deserve a great job, if we really do close on the 4th.”

Does that mean they may remain open after the Labor Day weekend? Covin said they are talking to someone now who might be able to do both, a kind of “11th-hour Hail-Mary” buyer, someone with the money to invest and the time to keep Wicked Slush—wicked.

“Wicked’s the coolest thing I ever did,” said Covin. “I couldn’t make enough that I could make all these repairs and throw whatever money at it that it needs, but it’s a cool thing that I would like to see continue.”

Amy’s Wicked Slush, 13840 Healdsburg Ave., 707-431-9253. Open 11am-9pm daily, till 10pm on weekends—until Sept. 4.

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Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2012, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.

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