Ice cream dream come true
June 30, 2011
By Michael Timm
In a storybook case of entrepreneurship, a Bay View couple recently launched their own wholesale ice cream business, Purple Door Ice Cream.
Lauren and Steve Schultz, both educators by trade, rent space at Skyline Catering, 5601 S. Pennsylvania Ave. in Cudahy, where they produce custom-flavored super-premium ice cream for sale to local restaurants and grocers.
Inside the stainless steel kitchen they toil for hours feeding 2.5-gallon bags of ice cream base—cream, milk, sugar, stabilizer, and emulsifier obtained from Galloway Company in Neenah, Wis.—into their Carpigiani batch freezer, which looks like a cross between a soft-serve machine and an industrial washer. They pour the Wisconsin dairy products and local ingredients into its cylindrical tumbler, seal the hatch, and let it spin for 10 to 12 minutes. Then, a turn of a lever, and out comes Purple Door ice cream, ready to be spooned into compostable pint containers. These are quickly spirited across the kitchen into the “hardening cabinet,” a daunting steel freezer kept at 25 degrees below. And the process begins again.
Bay View residents Steve and Lauren Schultz launched Purple Door Ice Cream in April. Purple Door’s “super-premium” status means the ice cream is 14-percent butterfat. ~photo Michael Timm
It’s a lot of work, but it’s literally a dream come true for Lauren, 32. “I’ve wanted to open an ice cream business since I’ve been in high school,” she said.
In fact, the dream was a topic of the couple’s first date back at the Riverview Café and Wine Bar in Minneapolis. Lauren was attending grad school with Steve’s sister and working at Izzy’s Ice Cream. She told him about her dream. He never forgot.
They married and settled in Bay View, which Lauren compared to their Longfellow neighborhood in Minneapolis. Steve is a counselor at Kettle Moraine High School in Wales, Wis. Karen is a special ed teacher for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the Milwaukee metro area.
Last July, the couple had their first child, Simon, but last fall they were already making business plans.
“When we finally decided to do it, it was ‘Let’s make this happen, let’s make this happen now,’” Lauren recalled.
“My role is to support,” Steve said with love. “Lauren is the face of the company.”
Lauren smiles. “He does a lot. He makes a lot of ice cream…”
Working the Dream
Glance in the frozen desserts section at Bay View’s Outpost Natural Foods and Purple Door has its own row featuring vanilla, mint chip, chocolate, butter pecan, cinnamon, and even espresso—made from coffee beans from Anodyne Coffee Roasting Company, just down the block from the Schultzes’ Rusk Avenue home. Their website hints at more exotic flavors: salted caramel, goat cheese, mascarpone.
“The grocery stores are really interested in us because there isn’t another local ice cream maker in Milwaukee,” Lauren said. “You have custard, but not ice cream.”
In addition to Outpost, Purple Door is available at Metcalf’s in Wauwatosa, Sendik’s in Shorewood, and Beans & Barley on Milwaukee’s East Side. At press time they were still waiting to hear back from G. Groppi Food Market.
Restaurants serving Purple Door include Bay View’s Pastiche Bistro & Wine Bar and Honeypie, plus Ryan Braun’s Graffito and Mikey’s downtown.
It’s also available Saturday mornings through October at the Wauwatosa farmers market. The Schultzes pack up their Toyota Prius with 80 pints to vend from insulated bags. “We can’t afford a pushcart just yet,” Lauren said.
The couple once applied to compete on CBS’s long-running reality show Amazing Race, but didn’t make it. They were, however, inspired by Amazing Race alumnus Blake Mycoskie, whose TOMS Shoes One for One program donates one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes sold.
The Schultzes started their own give-back program, Milk for Milwaukee. Ten cents from the sale of each pint goes to buy milk that Purple Door donates to local men’s and women’s shelters including Guest House of Milwaukee, Cathedral Center, and Pathfinders. In the first month alone, they donated 22 gallons to Guest House.
Before starting the business, they flew out to San Francisco to take a course taught by ice cream guru Malcolm Stogo. Steve summarized their commitment, “You have to have a passion for ice cream and for doing it right.”
Purple Door received support from the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation. Lauren took a course on how to write a business plan and WWBIC also provided a small-business loan. The couple’s personal banker, Mike Phillips at PNC Bank, also helped arrange a loan.
“Eventually we’d like to open a scoop shop,” Lauren said, ideally in Bay View.
You can bet that when they do, it will have a purple door.
More info: purpledooricecream.com or (414) 231-3979.
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