One of my recent projects for school was making a mock Details magazine. For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t), Details is a men’s magazine focusing on everything from culture to men’s fashion. It was really interesting getting to work in the men’s fashion industry for the first time. This was a group project, and we decided that as one of our spotlight features we were going to interview co-founder Grafton Kent of Exit Strategy IceCreamists to tell us the story behind this unique brand. What do you get when you combine a love for craft beer and ice cream?…
This is a new space for you, correct? How long have you been here?
It is. This used to be a lawyers office with yellow walls and green carpeting with nothing but cubicles. It took us from last October to January to renovate, along with twelve stitches in the process, to be ready for our grand opening in February. I am actually trying to put together a mural of sorts for this wall here to show from Day 1 until today; the transformation.
And this is your first exploration into retail as well?
Yes. We started as a manufacturing company and although the store is new, we have been making craft beer custards since 2012 at the Forsyth Park Farmers Market, which was great, but limiting. Every Saturday we would have a line of fifty people waiting. For those four hours it was non-stop.
Before we opened the store, we were a wholesale company. We partnered with Whole Foods so in exchange for carrying our custards and popsicles, we use their fruit to make our products. The addition of trying to use local and quality ingredients in something we have in common as well. You can also find our pints at the Beer Growler and our push-pops at The Distillery and the Green Truck.
So what is the difference between regular ice cream and custard?
Well ice cream is king in the South and custards are more Northern. It is really in the way they are made. When making ice cream, everything is spun at a higher rate so that you force air into it and as a result it expands. So with 1 gallon you will really end up with 3. With custard, the speed of the spin is slower, so that no air gets in, that’s why it is a denser, creamier product. Also due to the egg base, with a longer shelf life.
Yes- if you did that, it would destabilize the base and it would only last a day.
It is quite a unique idea. How did it come about?
My Co-Founder, Lisa Smith, has a pharmaceutical background and a love for craft beer, I retired from playing Pro Baseball and have always loved ice cream.
So was the idea something you came up with together?
Lisa and her sister Andrea were actually on a trip in Montana at a brewery sitting outside and literally across the street was an ice cream shop. And thats how the idea was born! I was also smart enough to recognize that when a woman is involved, she’s really the one in control, they secretly have the power, all I did was say, “Yes Ma’am.”
While I was playing baseball, during the off seasons I created a coffee line, and when I retired I wanted to explore that interest more. Lisa felt the same with her experience and background in pharmaceuticals. It is really all about encouraging people, no matter how small their dream, to go after it. And I’ve received emails from people saying that we inspired them to start their own small business, and I think, that’s really great.
In a way, are you using your business as a platform almost?
Yeah, I guess you could say that. We change a lot of people’s minds about liking craft custards. For some reason people have this negative connotation with ice cream that has alcohol in it, without realizing that it is in such a small amount, just to give flavor and not strength of the percentage of alcohol.
How do you make sure you are so different from anything else available?
Well, for one, our coffee is Exit Strategy. I actually had a line of coffee that I created during my off seasons when I played professional baseball.
What other unique combinations do you offer?
We have something called an orbit Sunday, which is a glazed donut with whipped cream around it, a scoop of cinnamon honey ice cream in the middle, caramel and chocolate swirl that signify the orbit and then brown rice crispies on around the whipped cream to resemble space junk floating around. And we also have our sampler called our ice cream flights that is in the shape of an old plane made, with 4, 5 oz. offerings of any ice cream flavor. As well as having ice cream sandwiches, cookies and sorbet popsicles.
Well, we signed a 5 year lease here and we are hoping to open in the next 1-2 years an express shop closer to Broughton Street. It has been so great with Lisa’s scientific background, every challenge we encounter is a learning opportunity. Our different fields definitely brought a valuable perspective.
Interview by Sophie Di Santo, Photos by Isabelle VonArx