Ice cream started as a hobby for Rachel Burns. She was inspired to swirl her first batch at home during the summer of 2017 as a way to use up the fast-growing fresh mint in her backyard. She recalls dusting off an old ice-cream maker in her basement, cleaning it and experimenting with it for the first time in her kitchen.
“We have a little pool in the backyard, and my husband, Corey, one of his college friends has two little kids and they would come over to swim a lot, and I would make mint ice cream for them when they did,” Burns says. “It grew to the point where like the kids then started to expect it, so every time they came over, I made ice cream.”
When summer was over, Burns put the Cuisinart ice-cream maker back on the basement shelf. She hauled it out again during the summer of 2018, and by summer 2019, she was hooked.
“There wasn't one kind of ‘aha’ moment, but I just became obsessed with ice cream,” Burns says. “Not only just making the mint, but thinking about unique flavor combinations and playing around with and developing my own recipes. It just became an obsession. I noticed when people ate it, they seemed really happy, and so it just seemed like an incredibly easy way to make people a bit happier for a moment.”
In some ways ice cream still is a hobby for Burns, as by day she works as an investment consultant, aiding large corporations in structuring investments for their 401K and pension plans. When she gets home, though, Burns trades in investment planning for other businesses and starts strategizing for her own, Bold Spoon Creamery.
Burns launched her small-batch, premium ice-cream company in March, just as the COVID-19 virus hit the St. Louis area. The timing was bad, Burns admits, but she and her family had slowly developed Bold Spoon over the course of several years, and they weren’t going to give up on the dream. With restaurants temporarily closing dining rooms, they weren’t sure where to begin, so they took a nontraditional approach for a new business and just handed out pints for free to get the word out.
“My husband called it a woman and her wagon,” Burns says with a laugh. “Basically I put some cinnamon ice cream in a cooler on wheels with a handle that you could pull, and literally went door to door on my street. I met neighbors that I didn't know, which is insane because I've lived in my house since 2012. Now I see them and we stop and wave and talk, which the only path that made that possible was the fact that I gave them ice cream.”
Working alongside her adult son, Harrison; her brother, Brad; and her husband, Corey Wilkinson, Burns has expanded Bold Spoon Creamery into an online store offering delivery. “And my first online order was one of my neighbors,” Burns says with pride. Bold Spoon is also now a vendor at Tower Grove Farmers’ Market in Tower Grove Park and the Boulevard Farmers’ Market in Richmond Heights.
Wilkinson has become “an expert ice-cream machine operator,” Burns says, and helps with dishes during R&D and delivers Bold Spoon pints to customers around town. Harrison, who graduated from college this spring, created social media accounts for Bold Spoon and helped build the company’s website. Brad, meanwhile, who has worked as a chef at Lorenzo’s Trattoria for two decades, has aided Burns in developing new flavors.
What started with one flavor – garden mint – has expanded into a rotating selection of farm-fresh options, including roasted peach, honey and balsamic glaze; goat cheese with fig jam; sweet cream with mixed berries; salted chocolate; and lemon curd.
As the business has grown, Burns has sought out locally-grown produce and other fresh ingredients to craft her ice cream. For example, the roasted peach, honey and balsamic glaze ice cream is made with honey from Stinger’s Honey & Beeswax, a honey farm in University City, Missouri. Burns has also been using milk and cream from Rolling Lawns Farm in Greenville, Illinois, to make her ice cream. Her flavor list is flexible, she says, and changes with what fresh fruits and herbs are available throughout the seasons, which means she can buy whatever abundance of product a farmer may have at the moment.
Like so many entrepreneurs, many of these farmers and growers have been hit hard by the pandemic, and by keeping her products local, Burns is proud to support her community.
“There's just so many impacts that I frankly didn't realize in the beginning,” Burns says. “So yeah, anytime we can work together, small business to small business, and help each other out, it's a good thing, particularly when both parties can be flexible and kind of work to what that abundance is at that time.”
As the summer has stretched on, Burns and her family have found other creative ways to connect with the community, even amid the pandemic. Calling back to the early days of the business when Burns was the “woman and her wagon,” Bold Spoon has started hosting outdoor neighborhood ice-cream socials across St. Louis. Burns says that so far the socials have been organized by one point person in a neighborhood who helps get the word out to their neighbors, and then Bold Spoon takes pre-orders as well as sells pints on-site.
“We don't have an ice cream truck, we have a tent that we use at farmers’ markets, so basically we just show up in the neighborhood and we have the pre-orders pre-packaged and ready for pick up and then we have the ability to sell on-site,” Burns says. “We had one, which was incredibly fun, where people were just walking by, saw the tent, bought some ice cream and then went home and put it in a bowl and came back and ate it with their neighbors.”
Just as Burns created a greater sense of community on her own block through ice cream, she’s inspired to help facilitate the same in neighborhoods across the metro area.
“The thing that always amazes me is it just continues to be a kind of conduit to bring people together in different ways that I would have imagined,” Burns says. “It's just an easy way to brighten someone's day for a little bit and connect.”
You can find Bold Spoon Creamery at the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market on Saturdays (upcoming dates include July 18 and July 25) and at the Boulevard Farmers’ Market in Richmond Heights on Sundays (upcoming dates include July 18 and July 26). Bold Spoon is also available for sale at Schnucks (Chesterfield, Des Peres, Ladue, Lindbergh and Richmond Heights), the Smoke House Market and The Women's Exchange.
Editor's Note: This post has been updated with additional retail locations selling Bold Spoon Creamery ice cream.
Bold Spoon Creamery, 314.406.0765, boldspooncreamery.com