Seven years ago, Tamara Keefe was on top of her game: She was a top-tier marketing executive living near the California coast. She was successful and had the accolades to show for it. But when work began to take the joy out of life, she took the advice of friends, quit her job, and leaned in to her lifelong hobby ... making ice cream.
The result of her passion will open in Lafayette Square in February – Clementine’s Naughty or Nice Creamery, or, as Keefe calls it, “St. Louis’ first and only micro-creamery.”
Playing with that “naughty and nice” quip, she’ll serve both boozy ice creams (read: maple bourbon with candy pecans; banana rum with salted caramel swirl) and selections Keefe calls “creamy, hip and different,” such as Manchego with truffles and honey, and chocolate Mexican mole. Ingredients are to be locally sourced, artificial flavors are never to be used and the ice cream will be 16 to 18 percent butterfat. “No one in the state of Missouri makes ice cream that decadent,” she says.
The shop will open in the former Vino Vitae gourmet wine shop near the corner of 18th Street and Lafayette Avenue. Renovations are undergoing, and during a recent tour, envisioning the end result required a little imagination.
But that's not a problem --- Keefe has plenty. In ruby red lipstick and a tailored tweed jacket, she personally suggests the kind of elegance and charm that Clementine’s will embody. “I’ll have an antique French brass bar,” she explains with a sparkle in her eye. “Think white subway tiles…chalkboard walls, cool old vintage light fixtures…black and white with a hint of Tiffany blue and peach.”
Clementine’s will feel like a vintage ice cream parlor: romantic and nostalgic, yet modern, with clean lines and chalkboard art. With intimate seating for conversation at the bar, the space will offer room for bigger groups at indoor tabletops or on the outdoor patio – it should be ideal for a date, a family gathering, or a solo outing.
Keefe fell in love with the art of ice cream at a young age when her mother found an ice cream machine at a yard sale. They took it home and began inventing new flavors, and a Sunday tradition was born. And even as she climbed the corporate ladder, Keefe remained devoted to refining her craft, making original recipes for friends and parties. Today she calls herself a "flavor temptress," with good reason.
When her company transferred her from California to St. Louis in 2008 to work for soy ingredient supplier Solae, Keefe came to the Midwest “kicking and screaming.” Overworked and trying to adjust to a new city, she eventually realized she had to make a change. That meant quitting her job last April to open Clementine’s. “I took my savings, I cashed in my 401(k) made the biggest bet of my whole life,” she says.
Things quickly looked up. “In six months, I found the one true love of my life. And that’s St. Louis,” she says with a smile. “I feel Lafayette Square is a magical place and it’s been so good to me, and it really gave me the strength and the courage to find the woman in me.”
And while Keefe is clearly committed to her neighborhood, the opening of Clementine’s is deeply personal. If she were to have a child, she’d want to name her Clementine. But in the meantime, she’s created something just as close to hear heart: “My ice cream company is my baby,” she says.
Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery. Coming soon to 1637 S. 18th Street, Lafayette Square, St. Louis, Missouri. 314.858.6100, clemetinescreamery.com.
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