Story by Britney Nguyen, featured photo by Sophie Timberlake

When grocery stores were running out of ice cream during the early months of the pandemic, Stephanie Rosse knew she could do something about it.

On April 15, Rosse, a trained pastry chef, opened Rockwood Dairy Bar at 2514 University Drive in Durham for grab-and-go, fresh-made ice cream and baked goods. This came about two weeks after Gov. Roy Cooper announced a statewide stay-at-home order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Eating ice cream is a way to get through this pandemic,” Rosse said. “It’s a luxury we can give ourselves.”

After being featured on Bites of Bull City, Rosse said Rockwood Dairy Bar sold 250 pints and quarts of ice cream on its opening day. She stayed up until 4:30 a.m. that night to make more ice cream and sold out again.

“That’s what is so amazing,” Rosse said. “The community here is so supportive. This is a tale of a community that built an ice cream shop amidst COVID.”

Rosse’s daughters work with her at Rockwood Dairy Bar, where they help her come up with new ice cream flavors. She said one of her daughters came up with an ice cream taco, while the other daughter made a Biscoff cookie-flavored ice cream. Rosse also makes flavors her customers come up with.

“I like to get together with the customers, figure out their flavor profiles and create something for them,” she said. “One can get jaded by the restaurant business, but everyday I wake up looking forward to meeting people.”

All of the ice cream, sorbets and pastries are made fresh with cream, sugar and eggs, and ripe fruit. The cones, taco shells and bowls are also made in store.

Rosse is currently working on a special that would be fresh toasted pound cake with ice cream on top. She also has a cookie sandwich to-go kit that includes 4 cookies, a pint of ice cream and sprinkles.

As the months get colder, Rosse wants to have a sitting space and coffee bar in the restaurant. She also plans on selling chai, tarts, French macarons, Thanksgiving pies and Buche de Noel for Christmas.

Rosse has been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years. She grew up in Durham and went to school at UNC, but she kept quitting to work in restaurants.

“My parents were both academics and told me, ‘if you’re going to do this, you’re going to do this right,’” she said.

Rosse was sent to culinary school in France for three years. She finished school and completed internships in France before returning to work in Atlanta and Greenville, S.C. Before she opened Rockwood Dairy Bar, Rosse had worked at Nana’s in Durham and at the Washington-Duke Inn.

Rosse said starting this business has been an amazing experience, but there is a lot of fixing this and that.

“Amidst COVID, things can be difficult,” Rosse said. “Customers have watched us grow, and everytime they come they see differences and can be part of the journey.”

Rockwood Dairy Bar is located at 2514 University Drive in Durham. It is open from Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday hours are noon to 8 p.m. Learn more on the website here.