Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Erika Massow's H & C Ice Cream rolls into farmers markets

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Massow hopes to keep Kansas City cool this summer.
Erika Massow doesn't drive a van that plays jangly, public-domain windup tunes. She's got a Ford Focus with a front license plate that reads: "Powered by bacon." And Wednesdays and Saturdays, the car is packed with Igloo coolers full of the salted-caramel, blood-orange buttermilk, and peanut-butter-cup ice creams that she can't keep in stock at area farmers markets.

"I got tired of going to the store and not finding anything that wasn't made with corn syrup," Massow says of what sparked her month-old business. "Ice cream just needs to be five ingredients."

H+C has dairy-free and vegan options.
On a recent Saturday morning, Massow, 33, leans down to talk to some children who have approached her table at the Brookside Farmers Market. She smiles and opens a glass jar filled with cartoon stickers. Every child leaves with a sticker, and more than a few end up triumphantly carrying away 5-ounce containers of blueberries-and-cream or chocolate-covered-strawberry ice cream. Breakfast is served.

"My friends call me a sugar pusher because of those stickers," Massow says in a voice that has the deep lilt of a sassy bartender. She sees herself as more of a cardamom pusher - she adds the spice to her vanilla as a nod to her Swedish grandmother's recipe for cardamom coffee cake - or a local pusher or a farm pusher.

"We have so much around here," she says. "I went to Eudora to pick strawberries. I'll go to Lexington for peaches. And I'm making my mint flavors by steeping mint, from local farmers, in milk."

Massow was laid off from her film - marketing position in December 2011. She wryly notes that she lost her job on the Monday after an Office Space - themed party. She knew she didn't want to return to a desk, so at first she filled her time volunteering at Cultivate Kansas City's Gibbs Road Farm and taking beekeeping classes at Johnson County Community College. By then, she says, she had already begun a "personal agricultural renaissance." What started as a tomato plant on her West Plaza condo patio had evolved over six years to a sprawling backyard garden in Mission with raised beds, berry bushes and fruit trees.

When a life coach recommended that she talk with several area food producers, Massow interviewed Jan Knobel and Elaine Van Buskirk, the sisters who run the Upper Crust Bakery, and Brian Jurgens, the bearded barista behind the wheel at CoffeeCakeKC. Massow bought a used ice-cream mixer on eBay and launched H & C Ice Cream, named for her wheaten terriers, Harold and Clover.

Massow makes batches Sunday nights in a downtown commissary, 96 ounces at a time. She doesn't use stabilizers: ingredients (sometimes called emulsifiers) such as guar gum and gelatin, which manufacturers add to reduce iciness and increase shelf life. The base for nearly all of her flavors includes fair-trade organic sugar, organic half-and-half and organic eggs.

Her creations then set for two days in the freezer before she packs the ice cream on Tuesdays for the Lee's Summit farmers market Wednesday morning and Waldo's later that afternoon. For now, Massow keeps the ice cream cold using freezer bags wrapped in ice inside the coolers; she expects that she'll have to start using dry ice when the temperature climbs.

H+C has mini, half-pint and pint sizes.
"Somebody asked for a gallon the other day, but I'm not Breyers," Massow says. "People need to realize ice cream is not an everyday thing. You shouldn't have a gallon of ice cream every night."

The most popular size is that 5-ounce mini, though she also sells pints and half pints. In just the first few weeks since opening, marketgoers have asked her to work on sugar-free and dairy-free options. There's already a vegan berry, made with organic almond milk, organic blue agave, fresh strawberries, organic coconut milk and vanilla. Massow doesn't want someone's dietary restrictions to stop them from enjoying ice cream.

"My niece has celiac disease and she misses what she can't have anymore. I just want to re-create what people could have before," she says.

She also doesn't want to dilute her product to lower production costs.

"I'm not going to hem and haw with a farmer," she says. "I respect what they do, and in that respect I'm willing to pay their price. I feel like, so far, people have respected that this is a small-batch product and there's a cost associated with that."

She hopes to break even within the first two years of her business, and for now she's supporting herself and her company with part-time jobs at Williams-Sonoma and an accounting firm. But she's looking at moving into a brick-and-mortar space or upgrading to a food truck. In the meantime, she just tries to keep H & C firing on all four cylinders.

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