Buoyed by cicada sundae buzz, Toby’s Ice Cream plans spring opening for Vienna shop

After going viral last summer for offering cicada-themed sundaes, Arlington-based Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream has parlayed that success into a new shop in Vienna, its first expansion.

Signs that Toby’s was adding a location in the Cedar Park Shopping Center (280 Cedar Lane SE) were reported in December, but the business didn’t confirm the news until Feb. 9.

The team hopes to have a soft opening for the new store in late March or early April, with a grand opening potentially following in April or May, co-owner Toby Bantug told FFXnow, though ongoing disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic make an exact date difficult to predict.

“We gotta deal with construction, supply-chain issues and stuff,” he said.

Bantug, who owns and runs Toby’s with his wife, Monina, says they have envisioned expanding the shop ever since it opened in Arlington County’s Westover neighborhood in 2008.

However, it took some changes for the couple to commit to that plan. First, they started delivering ice cream in their home neighborhood of Mantua during the early days of the pandemic, establishing a new, strong customer base in Fairfax County.

Then, there was the unexpected, overwhelming popularity of the cicada sundaes, which were introduced in May 2021 in honor of Brood X’s emergence from its 17-year slumber.

Designed to resemble cicadas, with no actual insects harmed in their making, the sundaes gave Toby’s a critical boost at a time when it was still finding its footing after closing during the first couple months of the pandemic.

With customers coming from as far away as Baltimore and Delaware, the shop ultimately sold more than 3,500 cicada sundaes, making as many as 500 in a day at the height of the phenomenon, according to Bantug.

“It was just an amazing, amazing thing,” Bantug said. “…It kind of put us on the map. We got a little recognition for it, and there were some shopping centers that had heard about us and wanted us to open up.”

In considering an expansion, the Bantugs were drawn to Vienna for its community, which reminded Toby of Westover. He also thought Cedar Park Shopping Center’s proximity to three different public schools as well as the Vienna Community Center would make it an ideal location.

“It’s a great neighborhood,” he said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of families, and there’s a lot of things going on. It’s got its own little character and pockets of their own things going on.”

Toby’s Ice Cream will join several new food outlets in the shopping center, including the now-open Japanese restaurant Sushi Koji and the upcoming El Sabor Grill, Lezzet, and America’s Best Wings.

For those who didn’t partake in the cicada sundae craze or otherwise aren’t familiar with Toby’s, Bantug says the shop differentiates itself from other ice cream vendors with its commitment to simple yet creative flavors. It produces small batches by hand with all-natural ingredients.

“We are ice cream people through and through, and there’s a lot of ice cream junkies out there,” Bantug said. “We’re always looking for good opportunities to bring people together to enjoy our product and the joy we can give people.”