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Loving Spoonfuls: The Scoop on Black-Owned & Operated Ice Cream Makers

by  Phyllis Armstrong on July 27, 2017
Loving Spoonfuls: The Scoop on Black-Owned & Operated Ice Cream Makers

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The luscious textures and satisfying flavors of homemade ice cream make it one of the desserts often ranked as a favorite by people of all ages. Many of us still have fond memories of enjoying ice cream in our youth, from the tingling bell of the ice cream truck to turning the crank of mom's old-fashioned ice cream machine.

Today, ice cream makers such as the Taharka Brothers in Baltimore woo customers with popular or adventurous flavorings combined with sweet or even savory additions. The key ingredient for small-batch ice cream makers is quality.

"We're not doing such a high quantity that we have to restrict on our quality," says Detric McCoy, office manager for Taharka Brothers Ice Cream. "For instance, we have a watermelon sorbet. We actually have to chop all the watermelon and prepare the ingredients."

The company owned by the non-profit Sylvan Beach Foundation has a team of 10 full-time employees, the majority of whom are young African Americans. They produce between 75 to 85  two and a half gallon tubs of ice cream every day. There are some 50 flavors.

The Baltimore Sun newspaper named Taharka Brothers the best ice cream in the city in its inaugural Best of Baltimore 2017 section. McCoy says the company appreciates the support of Jupiter's Ice Cream, which serves Taharka Brothers products exclusively, as well as the more than 70 other distributors in Maryland and D.C. "It's great to have that award, especially for us, because we don't have a scoop shop."

When it was first launched in 2010, Taharka Brothers advertised itself as a socially conscious company. The Change-Maker Mobile ice cream truck is one of the ways the team reaches out to youth and promotes entrepreneurship. "The fact that people can see us out there definitely changes kids mindsets," says McCoy. "The truck is good for us because we're wholesale and a lot of people are looking to find us."

Our search for other black-owned or operated ice cream companies and shops turned up almost a dozen places across California, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Texas and the District of Columbia. There are several award winners on our list and we have them below for you to visit this summer and beyond.

Cajou Cream
Washington, D.C. |

Attorney and raw food chef Nicole Foster dreamed of creating her own rich non-dairy creams that her kids would thrive upon.  She created Cajou, cashew milk ice creams that became a hit with not just her kids but family and friends too.   The dairy-free desserts come in four delicious flavors and are sold online.

Goodies Frozen Custards & Treats

Washington, D.C. |

The popularity of the vintage mobile eatery Brandon Byrd rolled out paved the way for his shop to open on Independence Avenue SW in D.C. His vision is a tribute to a time when "Made in America" stood for quality and craftsmanship. The Goodies shop and truck reminds customers of the time when rock & roll played on jukeboxes and people called Detroit "Motor City." The frozen custard and treats made by Goodies won a #1 Dessert Food Truck award on the Food Network's "Top 5 Restaurants" show.

Hank's Ice Cream Parlor

Houston, Texas |

The Wiggins family still owns and operates the ice cream parlor opened by Hank and Okemah Wiggins more than 20 years ago. The shop produces ice cream made slowly by hand using fresh ingredients. Patrons can choose from 18 different flavors each day from a rotating list of more nearly 100. It is rumored that Beyoncé favors the banana pudding ice cream.

Island Tropical Ice Cream

Silver Spring, Maryland |

Island Tropical Ice Cream is owned by a native of Jamaica, Pierre Stone. The Caribbean flavors of mango, coconut, ginger, soursop and Guinness are what make this shop a unique ice cream destination. It has been a staple of Silver Spring for more than 15 years. Stone bought the ice cream store two years ago. He is continuing the tradition of selling quality, homemade ice cream to people who crave a taste of the islands or a familiar favorite such as butter pecan.

Mikey Likes It Ice Cream

East Village, New York |  

The ice cream shop on Avenue A in New York City is pushing the boundaries of what people traditionally enjoy in their ice cream. Michael "Mikey" Cole grew up in the lower East Side of Manhattan. He knows what will excite frozen dessert lovers in his hometown. The organic ice cream treats served at Mikey's have names that reflect American pop culture, including Foxy Brown and Nutty Professor. The shop also customizes treats for patrons who want to create their own flavors.  Ths past June, City Guide named Mikey's Daddy Mac one of the best ice cream sandwiches in NYC.

Miyako Old Fashioned Ice Cream

San Francisco, California

This shop in San Francisco's Fillmore District serves old-time ice cream favorites. Last year, owner Tom Bennett told that the caramel praline and peanut butter chocolate were among the best-sellers. The store has a back-in-the- day ambiance that adds to its popularity. It opened in 1993 and continues to attract customers looking for ice cream, candy, sandwiches and more.

Ruby Scoops Ice Cream & Sweets
Washington, D.C. |

Ruby Scoops sells small batches of ice cream, sorbets, sherbets and desserts online and through local food vendors and farmers markets. Chef and owner Rabia Kamara wanted to provide high-quality desserts when she opened her business in 2014. All of her ice creams and treats are handcrafted and made from scratch. The University of Maryland's student newspaper included the shop's Snickerdoodle ice cream on its list of top ten treats sold at Union Kitchen in D.C.

Taharka Brothers Ice Cream

Baltimore, Maryland |
410.889.1885 or 410.961-2899 for event inquiries

The small-batch ice creams and sorbets the Taharka Brothers make are sold at more than 70 restaurants, ice cream shops, stores and hotels in Maryland and the District of Columbia. The socially conscious company employs young African- American adults to make the ice cream, manage the company and connect with local communities. This pat April, The Baltimore Sun newspaper named Taharka Brothers the best ice cream sold in the city and surrounding areas.

York Castle Ice Cream Company

Rockville, Maryland

The York Castle Ice Cream Company specializes in the tropical flavors Calver "Cal" Headley keeps in his binder entitled, "My Book of Caribbean Fruits." The store in Rockville attracts loyal fans who rave about the "real" ice cream made in Jamaican flavors, including rum raisin, guava, passion fruit and mango. Headley learned about the ice cream business while working at a well-known, family-owned company that once owned eight shops in Maryland and D.C. York Castle gets rave reviews on Yelp along with a rating of four and a half stars.

ZBerry Frozen Yogurts & Treats Bar

Chicago, Illinois |

Owner Zenzile Powell opened ZBerry six years ago as a frozen yogurt and sorbet bar where customers help themselves to the frozen treats. Patrons can select the flavors and toppings they like. ZBerry offers non-dairy vegan options as well as flavored hot chocolates and warm apple cider during the winter months. 

Phyllis Armstrong

Phyllis Armstrong

The joy of cooking became a part of her life when Phyllis Armstrong was a child learning her way around the kitchen with her mother and grandmother. Her retirement from a demanding career in broadcast news has given her time to write about cooking and some of today's talented chefs. full bio


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