If I tell you “Ginger Cookie Snap”, you might think cookie. Well, think incredibly awesome ice cream, my dear.
Bold ginger flavor and delicious ginger snap cookie chunks. I’d say that’s more winter-like than a cup of hot chocolate.
Ice-cream loving friends Jess Eddy (Phebes) and Crista Freeman (Phin) started making ice cream at home in February of 2010. As they got more serious about their hobby and experimented with more recipes, they decided to take the plunge and turn their approach (a handful of all-natural, high-quality ingredients) into a business. Thus Phin & Phebes was born.
After a few initial challenges (finding the right dairy partner, sourcing ingredients that were up to their standards), they have been literally a sweet success. Their Coconut Key Lime ice cream is delicious, and this comes from somebody who usually stays away from coconut. Not too sweet, not too limey, a perfect balance of flavors that go incredibly well together. Their repertoire also includes Banana Whama (banana pudding ice cream with vanilla wafers), Vanilla Cinnamon (made with fancy Vietnamese cinnamon) and Vietnamese Iced Coffee.
Jess and Crista tell us more about the early stages of their business, Ice Cream University (!), and their plans for the future.
Do you guys come from food-related businesses?
No, but we’re big foodies. We love to eat, cook and entertain.
How did the winter hobby come to be an entrepreneurial venture?
It basically started as a small hobby in our Brooklyn kitchen and we had no intention of starting a business around it. We describe it as a hobby that just snowballed into this bigger thing over the course of a couple years. That doesn’t really speak to the amount of work we’ve put into it or what we’ve actually been through but it’s more of a cheeky testament that describes our roots. We were making some wacky but approachable flavors in our apartment and we thought we could add something new to the already big world of ice cream. We took it as far as possible while working full-time jobs. We eventually realized there was no way to do ice cream on a small scale and still stay sane. We felt as though we did everything that we could do to test our concept without actually launching a full-fledged business and it was working, so we quit our jobs, went to Ice Cream University and launched the business several months later.
Can you describe this Ice Cream University business? Sounds like straight out of a children’s book.
Yeah, it kind of is. It sounds like going to clown college or something, but it’s a real thing! It’s a really intensive, week long course focused on everything you could possibly imagine relating to ice cream. It’s very food science focused and people from all different types of companies and positions go there from manufacturing and R&D to farmers and start-up minded folks like us. We got a four-inch thick binder at the beginning and managed to cover everything in it by the end. We learned a lot about the science of ice cream and we learned enough to know that we had to take our home recipes and pretty much start from scratch and develop new recipes based on how ice cream is professionally manufactured.
Where are your frozen treats made?
We manufacture in the Adirondacks very close to where our dairy comes from, which is an eight-farm family cooperative.
What are some of your favorite spots in Greenpoint, your neighborhood?
How much time do you have! We love to eat and continue to go back to our favorite places for our favorite yummy things. Some of them are the hot breast chicken sandwich from Commodore, anything (and especially the brick chicken) from Marlow & Sons. We love to get lunch at the Halcyon Gourmet in Greenpoint – they are mainly a catering company but also do take out – some of the best food we’ve ever had. We live very close to Anella and love their cheeseburger as well as Diner‘s. For pizza we can’t get enough of Saraghina in Bed Stuy.
What was your favorite ice cream flavor as kids?
Phebe’s favorite ice cream as a child was Black Raspberry and there is still a huge soft spot for this flavor. Phin’s favorite flavor is a tie between Häagen-Dazs® coffee and green tea ice cream (very sophisticated palate for a youngster!)
Phin & Phebes turns 1 this month. What are your plans for the next year?
We’ve been very lucky with the success that we’ve had so far. We have amazing customers that really love our ice cream and we’re in a lot of great stores, many that we shop in ourselves. What we’re doing now and what you’ll hear from many people that own a small business is, we’re constantly reevaluating and figuring out the best direction to grow the business. As a small business every decision (evens small ones) have a big impact and the goal is to make the best decisions possible, which seems like common sense but it’s actually much more complex than that. Our big goal is we want to change the way people think about ice cream and go back to basics in regards to ingredients while really creating something new. We think that sort of change can happen over time and the more customers we meet and introduce our ice cream too the more we can do that.
Phin &Phebes ice cream is available at lots of retailers around the city, including Brooklyn Victory Garden, Stinky Bklyn and Union Market. They are slowly but surely taking over the world, and can be found as far as Massachussets.