In 2017, after discovering an overflowing patch of mint in her backyard, Rachel Burns unearthed an old ice cream maker from the basement and began making mint ice cream for family and friends.
The founder of St. Louis-based Bold Spoon Creamery told Garden and Health during a phone interview, “We were making mojitos with it, and that still wasn’t making a dent–so I started making mint ice cream. And, for a couple of years during the summer, I would do that. People would start coming over and would start expecting it.”
By 2019, Burns began experimenting with other flavors and had brought together “The Spoons,”–a group of her friends serving as taste testers for her different concoctions. She also sent samples to her son and his college friends to try, and they couldn’t get enough. The ice cream was a big hit, and Burns found that making the treat had become more than just a hobby for her. It was clear that she was ready to turn it into a business.
The company is led by Burns, who jokingly describes herself as a “corporate investment consultant by day and an ice cream maker by night and on the weekends.” She is assisted by her husband Corey Wilkinson, her son Harrison, and her brother, Brad Burns, a chef.
Bold Spoon Creamery operates around a mission “to bring a little scoop of joy to everyone’s day,” and all of its ice cream flavors contain ingredients that are locally sourced. “An element that is very important to us is using local ingredients in our ice creams. Every one of our flavors has local ingredients,” Burns explained. “The cream that we use comes from Rolling Lawn farms, which is about an hour outside of St. Louis. They make their cream every week.”
In addition to sourcing local dairy, Burns says that the company also uses several ingredients purchased at local farmers’ markets. “We participate in a lot of local farmers’ markets. St. Louis has several–but one that we participate in that’s really popular is called Tower Groves Farmers’ Market, and there are a lot of really fantastic vendors there,” said Burns. “A lot of the items that we source for our ice cream, aside from the cream, come from those markets. There’s a farmer that we get our peaches [from], our sweet potatoes, we get our mint from a local urban farm actually, our honey comes from a local farm about 45 minutes outside of the city, so we always incorporate local ingredients.”
Burns also mentioned that Bold Spoon Creamery has collaborated with market vendors, like a local coffee vendor and a bean-to-bar handcrafted chocolate company, to curate custom ice cream flavors–something she says will resume in the spring.
Some of the ice cream maker’s unique flavors (hence ‘Bold’ in the company’s name) include Brie with Spiced Honey, Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal, and of course – the one that started it all – Garden Mint. Burns says the best-sellers are Goat Cheese and Fig (one of her favorites) and Salted Chocolate.
Spreading joy through delectable ice cream was already a priority for the company, but Bold Spoon Creamery’s scoops doubled down on their mission to spread joy during the coronavirus pandemic. Back in April and May, the company donated containers of its delicious ice cream to Sisters of St. Mary’s St. Louis and St. Luke’s hospitals.
“We did that early on and are going to do some more of that in the future,” said Burns. “We were able to connect with a couple of local hospitals to provide little treats to their nursing and doctor staff in the COVID units It was really humbling to see how thankful they were of such a simple thing to do to show some appreciation.” Since then, Burns says she has received several thank-you emails. Additionally, she said that a St. Mary’s nurse stopped by the company’s booth at a farmers market to express her gratitude.
Bold spoon ice cream can be found at various Schnucks supermarkets locations in Missouri, a few specialty stores, and at three area farmer’s markets. The company also offers delivery to customers within seven miles of downtown Clayton, Missouri.
While partnerships with local businesses and the online branch of the company have kept business moving, the pandemic has presented obstacles. A major one is that Burns and her husband had initially intended to sell exclusively to restaurants and stores.
In March 2020, the couple received a commercial ice cream maker. ”Anytime you purchase big equipment like that, you obviously make the purchase months in advance,” said Burns. “When we made the purchase, we had no idea that we would be in a global pandemic when we actually took the liberty of the machine. We kind of had a crossroads in that our business model initially was to sell wholesale only to stores and restaurants. So when we got our commercial equipment in March, that business model that I spent so much time carefully crafting was completely useless.” The couple pivoted to focus on retail and has since added local grocery and specialty stores.
Despite these challenges, Burns says she continues to be motivated by the process of creating a product for people to enjoy and is glad they made the pivot to selling directly to consumers–many of whom have become regular buyers.
“I think the piece that keeps us going is people have just been so supportive of our business and really have told us how much they love our product, and it’s just really fun to make those connections,” Burns noted. Obviously, we’re very busy, but it doesn’t really feel like work to me.” “It’s really just the whole process of it that I love so much, and why I’m committed to keep improving and keeping it going, and I’m happy to give up sleep to do so.”