Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Sweet Success: Urban Churn may have the best craft ice cream in central PA–and now you can walk right in.

Adam Brackbill

Adam Brackbill looked a little tired.

He admitted that he’d only gotten a few hours of sleep the night before his shop opened in Midtown Harrisburg.

First came the early-morning TV interviews, and the print folks arrived a little later. Finally, at about 11 a.m., Brackbill threw open the doors of Urban Churn, marking the return of the old-fashioned scoop shop to the city.

“It’s already been a long day,” he admitted.

However, from beneath the fatigue, Brackbill clearly was delighted. This day had been years in the making, originating with an idea that Harrisburg needed small-batch, craft ice cream and culminating with the first customers trickling into a squat, snug, blue clapboard building on N. 3rd Street.

“In the end, all this work will be worth it,” he said.



Susan Bailey was one of Brackbill’s first customers on that opening day.

She already was a big fan of his product. Brackbill began churning back in 2013 in a tiny space in the back of Midtown Cinema, which actually became one of the first places where people could buy his ice cream.

Eventually, he opened a stand inside the Broad Street Market, which served as an incubator of sorts for his new brick-and-mortar shop.

“I’m so excited, I can’t stand it,” Bailey exclaimed, as she put in a large order, covering most of the eight flavors on the menu.

Yes, she said, she loves ice cream, especially from Urban Churn, which has gained a reputation for freshness, deep flavor and creative variety.

But, just as much, Bailey loves small business, especially those with a strong community foundation.

“It’s so hometown-y,” said Bailey, who came down from her artist’s studio in the Millworks. “This really adds something to the city and to Midtown.”

Score a win for owner Brackbill, as that’s exactly what he intended.

“Our business model fits in so well with this community,” he said. “Our shop and what we do is meant to be personal with people, and Midtown is the place to do that.”

Indeed, business was brisk on that first day, with Brackbill and his two employees taking orders and scooping up ice cream as quickly as they could. Bailey herself ordered five pints—mostly for friends, she said.

The staff also prepared its first affogato (espresso poured over ice cream), a sweet concoction made with Elementary Coffee Co. beans. In addition, they served up lemon bar sundaes and ice cream-topped brownies from another Broad Street Market vendor, Raising the Bar.

By the time you read this, Urban Churn’s menu of ice cream and treats could be vastly different than on that first day in mid-April. Brackbill promises to always have the standard chocolate and vanilla. But, after that, who knows?

As a small-batch producer, he prides himself on mixing it up and experimenting, to keep the business, um, fresh both for himself and his customers. In fact, Urban Churn actually received some national media attention when, over New Year’s, Brackbill dared to make (and sell) sauerkraut ice cream.

Flavors also depend upon what’s seasonally available in central PA (e.g. strawberries and peaches in the summer) and what’s cooking (and baking) at Urban Churn partners like Raising the Bar. He also prides himself on the occasional novelty item, including flavors like wasabi and mango habanero.

And, if you have an idea in mind, pop in and ask. Brackbill just might do it.

“We’re always open to new things,” he said.



The path to opening day wasn’t easy.

Like many buildings in Midtown’s old commercial strip, the squat, clapboard structure needed a lot of work: electrical, plumbing, a new bathroom, new paint, etc.

The renovation cost far more than Brackbill anticipated when he selected what he described as “the perfect location.” So, he turned to the community for help. He started an online fundraising effort, which actually exceeded his $10,000 goal, with dozens of people contributing.

“This is a real community project,” Brackbill said.

In addition, the timing was nerve-wracking.

After leaving its original production space at Midtown Cinema, Urban Churn had set up inside a warehouse in Swatara Township, but the lease had expired. So, Brackbill was leaving that building, while simultaneously renovating his new location and making ice cream for his stand in the Broad Street Market, which will remain open.

“It was tough, but everything worked out in the end,” he said.

Bailey herself was one of Urban Churn’s donors. She said that she was happy to support a community-based business started by a young, local entrepreneur, and the fact that it serves such delicious treats was only a bonus.

“We need to make connections in the community,” she said. “And this will help.”

Urban Churn is located at 1004 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg, and is open Wednesdays through Sundays. For more information visit

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