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Ample Hills Founders Fired Months Into Relaunching the Business

Jackie Cuscuna and Brian Smith enticed investors to buy back Ample Hills to return it to its former glory

A menu of ice cream flavors next to a stack of ice cream cones inside one of Ample Hills’s shops in Brooklyn
The founders of Ample Hills have been pushed out of their newly-relaunched business.
Alex Staniloff/Eater NY

It seems it has come time for the founders of Ample Hills to finally give up on the ice cream brand they built. After an attempt to relaunch Ample Hills in the spring, Jackie Cuscuna and Brian Smith say they’ve been fired by the very investors they helped entice to buy back the business, according to a report by Inc.

Rocky road is more than an ice cream flavor; it seems to be an unfortunate theme for the married couple. In 2011, they opened Ample Hills in Prospect Heights; the business exploded, stretching to 17 locations, quickly becoming known as a top ice cream shop for the city and beyond. But by 2020, the operators filed for bankruptcy, and Cuscuna and Smith were forced to sell off the business to a company called Schmitt Industries for $1 million, who ran it into the ground, closing all 12 remaining locations in a short time span, following allegations of unpaid rent.

In the meantime, the duo had not given up on the neighborhood and launched the Social in 2021, a nostalgic-themed ice cream parlor comeback, still open, just a few blocks from the original Prospect Heights Ample Hills. Those new investors helped the couple buy back the Ample Hills business, including recipes, and the social media accounts, according to a Fast Company report announcing the relaunch in 2023. There were three Ample Hills leases in the works at the time, according to the report.

Cuscuna and Smith tell Inc. they believe they were fired because of clashes with CEO, Lisa Teach: “I think, at the end of the day, the investors just got tired of us fighting with their CEO, and they made the decision to ultimately side with their CEO instead of the founders,” Smith told the publication. However, investor Norm Brodsky told Inc. that the reason for their termination surpassed issues with the CEO.

“We did a little too much trusting and not enough verifying,” Smith told Inc., adding that the partners regret having gone forward with the contract as it read. Cuscuna told the publication: “It wasn’t just a job for us. The communities that we created through the shops, the brands, the ice cream, the creativity — it was our life’s work.”