2012 is going to be an exciting year for vegans in Austin. Counter Culture will be gaining its very own brick and mortar on the east side. Austin is also getting its first vegan ice cream parlor: Sweet Ritual will be opening at the beginning of January inside Daily Juice at 45th and Duval.
If you had the yummy soft serve in Toy Joy, then you’re already familiar with their ice cream. Their combination of soy and coconut milk ice cream has both vegan and non-vegan fans around town. I sat down with co-owners Amelia Raley and Valerie Ward to talk about their shop and starting a business DIY style.
CM: Starting a business can be a long process. How long did it take you to go from concept to having it up and running?
Valerie Ward: The first time we talked about it was July of last year. We had gone to the City-Wide Garage Sale together to shop for doilies.
Ameila Raley: The doily by the pound table.
VW: Amelia mentioned that she wanted to start up her own vegan ice cream store after making it at Toy Joy for several years. I said, “Oh well, that’s a great idea. By the way, I have some experience in opening ice cream stores and managing ice cream stores from working at Amy’s. So if you need a business partner….” And thus it was born.
AR: It suited us very well. We are both really big history nerds. From the beginning we were searching out books of old ice cream parlor recipes from the early 1900’s and doing all this research.
VW: After we started thinking about it we did all the official stuff of forming a business. We started buying furniture. We started looking for a space. That’s what took the longest, finding a space.
You two have basically been doing it all yourselves. What’s that process been like?
AR: We’re doing as much used and as much second hand as possible. Both because I think it is really in line with our ethics, but also just because it’s a little bit more affordable. We’ve been getting a lot of stuff from antique stores and second hand stores.
VW: All of our menu boards have vintage frames that we put chalkboards in and painted them to be cute ice cream colors.
AR: Our milkshake spindle machine is from the 1950s and we had someone refurbish it. And we’re getting a new waffle cone iron to make our own waffle cones.
Where did you go shopping for all of your antiques? Was it mostly in Austin?
VW: Yeah, we looked on Craigslist, the City-Wide Garage Sale and different antique stores around town.
AR: We got a lot of stuff at Next to New.
VW: Oh, and Uncommon Objects of course. That’s where we got all our frames.
Do you have any advice for others looking to start a business?
VW: Having a mentor I think is really important.
AR: Yeah, the most important thing we did was find a website (Micromentor.org) that pairs business owners, former or current, with mentees. It took a little while. I think we actually forgot about it. All of a sudden we got this call that was like, “I’m your mentor from the website.” We had this woman called Sally. She owned a restaurant in New Orleans for twenty years called the Blue Bird Café. She has been an awesome source for information. She can smell bullshit from two miles away.
VW: She’s been super supportive. She just loves running a business and is very excited to hear what we’re doing.
Let’s talk about the fun part of an ice cream business, getting to make your own flavors. What flavors have you experimented with so far?
AR: We’ve had everything from cayenne spicy fire chocolate to chocolate and lavender, bananas foster, lemon with poppy seeds and it’s all dairy-free.
Has any flavor not worked?
What kind of toppings can customers look forward to at your vegan shop?
AR: We’ll have different nuts, sprinkles, and cookies. We’re doing Chic O’ Sticks which is kind of like the inside of a Butterfinger. For shake flavors we have Nutella, peanut butter and chocolate espresso.
Is there anything you’re serving beyond ice cream?
AR: We’ll have a coffee menu and espresso drinks. We’re going to be making are own homemade whipped cream too. We have one of those stainless steel canisters that you put the nitrous onto and shake it up. I’m really excited about that.
Sweet Ritual is now open from 8-8 inside Daily Juice. Check out Sweet Ritual’s website for updates on the parlor and watch for upcoming information on their grand opening party coming in January