Project Spotlight: Kate's Ice Cream
Step inside Kate’s Ice Cream in Portland, OR, and you know you’re in for a treat. Sixteen vibrantly-colored flavors of ice cream, all plant-based and gluten-free, are nestled behind the glass on an ombre tile bar that Kate and her mom installed themselves. Is your mouth watering yet? Ours is!
We sat down with Kate to chat about what exactly makes her ice cream so special, the hands-on approach she took in designing the new Kate’s Ice Cream space, and, of course, what her current favorite ice cream flavor is (spoiler: she couldn’t choose just one). Keep reading for our full interview with the ice cream entrepreneur.
Hi, Kate! Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got your start in the ice cream business! Have you always been passionate about sweet treats?
Yes, I've always been a sweets person. Growing up in Lafayette, Louisiana, my mom always had ice cream stocked in the house. In college, I would sometimes eat a whole pint in one sitting! Which leads me to believe it was in my destiny to make ice cream.
Back when I was 24 years old, my sister couldn't have dairy, and simultaneously I was wanting to eat less dairy, so I started recipe testing to make an ice cream that she could have. I ended up starting my first business in Boston making dairy-free ice cream popsicles and selling them at farmer's markets. A few years later, my husband and I decided to pack up and move to Portland, OR where I knew I wanted to continue my journey in plant-based ice cream. In 2019, I launched Kate's Ice Cream, a plant-based and gluten-free ice cream and desserts shop in Portland.
What makes Kates's Ice Cream special (and so yummy!)?
What makes Kate's Ice Cream so special is that we are 100% plant-based and gluten-free. We use coconut milk as our ice cream base, which makes it super creamy. We do a great job at making the ice creams super flavorful so that you are really getting the flavor of the ice cream such as Marionberry Cobbler or Salted Peanut Butter Brittle.
Our goal is to make really great ice cream, not just "great for dairy-free." So we want this ice cream to be full flavor, period. It's wonderful because so many people who visit us are having such unique experiences being able to have a gluten-free waffle cone or have a choice between 16 flavors of ice cream. There aren't a lot of ice cream shops in the US right now that are offering what we are, and hearing people's stories of how this is bringing them joy they had previously been unable to have, is very fulfilling.
What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?
My favorite flavor rotates a lot, but currently, it is Cookie Dough. I love chocolate chip cookies almost more than ice cream (maybe actually more...), and we make our own housemade cookies. So throwing raw cookie dough into a cookie batter ice cream base -- mind-blowing. My second favorite flavor is our Rose Water Cardamom Almond. So refreshing!
This was my first time conceptualizing a design and I gave them lots of inspo pictures, most of which included lots of vibrancy, pastels, bright sunshine, minimalism, and softness. They delivered the best design I could have ever asked for and I am so grateful for their eye and expertise! I couldn't have done this without them!
What was most important to you when designing the new space for Kate's Ice Cream?
The tiled bar was what I was most excited about. I knew I wanted ombre tile and I wanted that to be the focal point to compliment the ice cream dipping cabinet where you see lots of colorful flavors as well. When you walk into our ice cream store, the first thing your eyes are drawn to is the ombre tile bar and I'm so happy with how it came out.
What drew you to Fireclay?
Casework told me about Fireclay tile and as soon as I learned it was handmade tile in California, I was sold. Seeing all the unique designs that your customers have made in their spaces was beautiful, and I wanted to be a part of that community.
How many colors did you sample before landing on the final selects? Was there a clear winner from the beginning?
I played around with mint greens, yellows, and guava/pinks, but when Casework showed me Tumbleweed, Desert Bloom, and Sorbet together, it was a no-brainer. Easy decision from there, ha!
We heard you installed the tile yourself with your mom! Any challenges, highlights, or fond memories made?
Growing up, my mom owned her own painting company, and she would take my brother and me with her to job sites after school. She would paint, tile, and wallpaper people's houses, so I grew up watching her do that.
She can fix and create anything with her hands. So I flew her up to Portland from Louisiana to help me with the buildout of my shop. We tackled the tile bar together and she showed me how to do it step by step. For the next shop, I'll fly her out again for my next tile bar, for sure!
Watch Kate's Ice Cream come to life!
What do you love most about your new space?
Aside from our bar, I love looking inside the dipping cabinet because you can see 16 gorgeous bright flavors of ice cream. It's such a nostalgic childhood memory for people to be able to see the ice cream and choose based on visuals.
What's your favorite part of owning an ice cream shop?
Community, creativity, and team! I love my team, they're a lot of fun to be around and they teach me a lot. It's fun to be creative with flavors and collaborate with local businesses. I have also loved getting to know so many people in our community and it's great to see neighbors coming in with their dogs (and sometimes cats!).
If you could be any Fireclay color-- which would you be and why?
I would be Tuolumne Meadows because yellow makes me happy. And this specific shade is soft and calming. We painted our floors gold and our front door bright yellow because I want people to feel like they're walking into sunshine.
Why do you love ice cream?
Ice cream is nostalgic. It belongs to everyone. We prioritize hiring diversity in our company and in return cultivate that same community in return by focusing on collaborations with women and minority-owned businesses. I love that ice cream brings people from all walks of life into our shop. We don't have one "main customer" and that makes me proud. I love that anyone can come to Kate's and feel joyful.
Feeling inspired by the creamy pastels in Kate’s Ice Cream? Bring home up to five free samples to find the perfect blend for your space.