Full Tilt Ice Cream founders look back, and ahead, on 10th-anniversary eve

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Ten years, five shops, two kids.

It’s been an eventful decade for Justin Cline and Ann Magyar since they opened the doors of Full Tilt Ice Cream in White Center on June 20, 2008 – where their tenth anniversary party is (updated) set for Saturday.

Yes, this level of success and expansion – including more than 200 wholesale outlets around the Northwest – surprised them. “We didn’t have a business plan,” admits Justin, who now spends more time business-running than ice-cream-making.

“We never would have opened if we’d had a business plan!” laughs Ann, wrangling their 15-month-old daughter Ruby as we talk at a table in the original store, which still sports the lemon-lime paint we remember from photographing it pre-opening.

Their oldest child, 7-year-old Moss, “asked me if we’re going to be open forever – I said, we’ll keep doing it as long as we can make some money.”

And as long as they can balance entrepreneurship with family life. Justin says he does “get a break every once in a while,” but especially this time of year, peak ice-cream season, it’s “pretty much every day.”

With some help. A lot of help, compared to the early days when he was the one in the back room making the ice cream. Full Tilt now has a central kitchen in South Park, with a warehouse and offices. By midsummer, the companywide staff total is likely to be up to about 40. Ann, a former teacher, says they’re somewhat “Mom and Pop” to their young employees as well as to Moss and Ruby.

Parenthood also factors into their company growth plans. “I look for a high birth rate five years ago” when choosing a location, Justin explains. Besides the White Center shop, Full Tilt has shops in Columbia City, the U-District, Ballard, and as of early this year, Capitol Hill.

Some of the other locations where you can buy/eat Full Tilt Ice Cream are impressive too. “I never thought we’d be in the Space Needle!” enthuses Ann.

And yet some things haven’t changed.

Justin notes, “We still do as many weird flavors as we can. And if you have a birthday (party) you get to make your own flavor. We still play pretty loud semi-offensive music.”

Their customers aren’t all so adventurous, however. “I’m surprised how popular vanilla is,” he admits. And not so cheap to make – organic vanilla was $20 per gallon back in the day, and now “conventional” runs $300. That, he goes on to explain, had to do with a consolidation of vanilla holdings a few years back.

What else might people not know about the challenges of the ice-cream business?

“The amount of maintenance of refrigeration is a big thing.” Sometimes multiple malfunctions can happen in a single day.

Keeping the ingredients of popular flavors in stock can be challenging too. “Our salted caramel is still made by one person – I used to make two pots of caramel a week; now she’s doing 36 every other day!”

Even as the boss, his hours are long, but they’ve tried to stay flexible, especially since parenthood. “I can stay late and go late,” for example. (Just yesterday afternoon, for example, we spotted them at the carnival at White Center Heights Elementary, where Moss is a student and Ann is the PTA president.)

While it’s a little soon for Ruby to develop an opinion on the family business, you can coax one out of Moss: “I like it … I think it’s cool.” That goes for the games – pinball is a Full Tilt staple – as well as the ice cream.

What’s next? They’re looking at expanding outside Seattle – perhaps the Eastside. And they are “exploring” possibilities such as franchising/licensing.

But they’re not taking anything for granted. Such as the possibility they’ll be around for at least another 10 years. “Everybody’s like, once you’re in business for five years, you’re golden. But you’re not. I still feel like, at any moment, something could take us out.”

Nonetheless, it’s time to party. And you’re invited. As featured in the WSB calendar, the 10th-anniversary celebration is 5-10 pm (UPDATED) Saturday (June 23rd) at the White Center location , which also is donating part of the day’s proceeds to the WC Food Bank. The party will feature live music by Rats in the Grass. From the party announcement:

There have been countless birthdays and celebrations hosted inside our walls, and we are overjoyed every day to see the faces of our community members that have supported us for an entire decade. Our first day we had no idea who would show up. We figured our friends would come see us, and maybe a few people in the neighborhood. We sold out of everything in a few hours, and the next day was even busier. White Center has changed so much in the past 10 years. Some of it good, and some of it a little sad, but we are happy to be a member of the community.

They’re hoping you will come see them Saturday to help kick off the second decade.

(STORY UPDATED TUESDAY NIGHT to reflect change in Full Tilt anniversary party from Wednesday to Saturday.)

13 Replies to "Full Tilt Ice Cream founders look back, and ahead, on 10th-anniversary eve"

  • TM June 19, 2018 (8:24 pm)

    Congrats! Your ice cream is awesome, vibes and music are legit, we love Full Tilt (WC is our local). Thanks and we’ll see you all summer

  • HappyOnAlki June 19, 2018 (8:53 pm)

    Such a great story! Congratulations!

  • TreeHouse June 19, 2018 (9:17 pm)

    I love hopping on the 128 and heading down to Full Tilt. I had no idea they expanded so much but it makes sense since they have a great place. Congrats!

  • quierohelado June 19, 2018 (10:00 pm)

    congrats on the first 10!  your intentions are right so shouldn’t the next 20 just fall into place? sure, curve balls can come at business owners and one never knows what the future holds, but you’ve won a lot of this community’s support.  happy stomachs, happy customers!  thanks for such quality products and genuinely fun shops to spend time in. i’m proud to bring out of town visitors to full tilt to show off what you’ve created.

  • Christopher Boffoli June 19, 2018 (10:24 pm)

    Congratulations Justin, Ann and family. I can’t believe it has been ten years already Wow. 

  • HM June 19, 2018 (10:25 pm)

    Congratulations!My sister and her kids came to visit from the east coast last year and I took them to Full Tilt the first night they were in town.  And they wanted to go back the next day.  And the next.  And the next.  It was the highlight of their stay!  My brother-in-law was left lamenting that they don’t have anywhere like it near where they live.  It really is a special place.  Looking forward to the next ten years!

  • miws June 20, 2018 (6:53 am)

    Congrats on 10, Full Tilt! I remember you coming into McLendon’s, where I was a cashier, to buy supplies while building your shop. Seems like yesterday. 


  • Kara June 20, 2018 (11:18 am)

    10 years!! Wow the time has flown! I love your presence in WC, it’s ones of the things that keeps me coming back to the neighborhood after moving to Tacoma…speaking of Tacoma would love to have you in the Lincoln District! It’s gritty and wonderful and diverse…reminds me very much of WC. 

  • seattlesparkle June 20, 2018 (12:01 pm)

    Congratulations, Ann and Justin! Your success is well deserved.. not only with your hard work, but your generous spirit and commitment to community. Plus the best vegan ice cream around! Best wishes for the future.

  • H June 20, 2018 (1:46 pm)

    Great story and a well deserved congratulations!!

  • RickB June 20, 2018 (3:05 pm)

    Full Tilt opened up a few months after I bought a house in White Center. I’d take my family and friends there as a way to show them how cool WC is. Glad they are going strong after 10 years!

  • JoB June 20, 2018 (8:15 pm)

    your thanksgiving pot luck  will always be one of my favorite memories ..

  • sam-c June 21, 2018 (4:25 pm)

    awesome, and congrats on 10 years!!  Hard to believe, and the ice cream has been fantastic for all those 10 years.Our most recent visit was during the Honk fest, and knew the ice cream was worth the long wait (such a long line!)  The guy scooping the ice cream that day had the best attitude.   props to him.

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