Nothing marries summertime and Michigan better than homemade ice cream. As the vendors for the new Downtown Market in Grand Rapids begin to roll out, Love’s Ice Cream stands among the most anticipated. What better way to enjoy an afternoon stroll through the market than with a handcrafted ice cream cone in hand.
In the words of Love’s Ice Cream, the small, local company wants to “bring an obsession of the best ‘real food’ ingredients together with [their] love of ice cream to Grand Rapids, MI.” I spoke at length with founder of Love’s Ice Cream, Chris McKellar, about that vision and what being a vendor at the Downtown Market means to him.
Kristin Coppens: Where did the idea behind Love’s Ice Cream come from?
Chris McKellar: I actually used to work in Web Design, but I’ve always loved the culinary arts. I decided to really pursue food and enroll in culinary school when I heard about the creation of the Downtown Market. The idea behind the name of Love’s Ice Cream comes simply from the idea that everyone truly does love ice cream—I want to be able to control everything in my product and opening the shop nurtures that dream, and allows me to start making ice cream outside of just my own family kitchen!
KC: Why the Downtown Market? What does being involved with that mean for your business?
CM: I honestly would have never opened a freestanding business had I not heard of being an indoor vendor at the Market. Love’s Ice Cream is about changing the food culture and placing ourselves on a level of excellence higher than the “mega-marts.” The products are made with care and respect for our community and ingredients. Being involved with the Downtown Market allows me to work alongside like-minded individuals who are striving for the same things and wish to keep our dollars in the local community.
KC: What makes Love’s Ice Cream unique to others in the industry?
CM: A few things, actually. We are a small batch ice cream shop and every single thing, from the ice cream itself to all of the add-ins, are homemade. I even make all of the candy add-ins from scratch, like homemade butterfingers! The organic dairy is also from a single source—I physically travel to the farm and pick up the dairy myself, this allows the opportunity to control, support, and converse with the local farms and their products. I’m almost like a dairy farmer and ice cream maker wrapped into one. Although my process is extremely labor-intensive, the resulting product is well worth it and controlled so as to make sure nothing is “mysterious” in what I’m producing.
KC: Why is your vision important for the community of Grand Rapids, and for Michigan as a whole?
CM: I think my vision is important because it is in tune to what is happening to our food system as a whole. There is a major shift towards sustainable agriculture and the realization that mass production and the standard “mega-farm” might not be conducive or healthy to our way of life. It’s about mentality, and this mentality wraps itself around the notion that we are embracing the health of people, the earth, product, and the community.
KC: What is your favorite ice cream flavor, and will Love’s Ice Cream have somewhat “healthier” options?
CM: Personally, I’m a sucker for any kind of vanilla or chocolate malt flavor. In terms of healthier options, as a whole ice cream is obviously an indulgence and not entirely healthy. On the other hand, I plan to provide frozen yogurt, sorbets, and even non-dairy choices. You can afford to indulge and enjoy it when you know what the ice cream is made out of and there are no preservatives or hidden ingredients.
KC: What is the most exciting thing, in your opinion, that we should look forward to seeing from Love’s Ice Cream?
CM: I think I’m most excited to show the business perspective and vision. I care about wholesome products, and pure, quality ingredients and I promise to always go to great lengths in achieving and providing that result. I’m just excited to get in there and start making ice cream!
Stay up to date on the opening of Love’s Ice Cream and the Downtown Market through their Facebook page!
What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Photo credit: Grand Rapids Downtown Market