Is it me, or is Blue Marble Ice Cream everywhere?? At first I thought it was cool, like seeing your favorite hip Australian coffee purveyor in your hotel when you're out of town, or when your grocer starts carrying your favorite, hard-to-find granola. But at some tipping point, "cool" gives way to a weirder feeling. Not so much like Starbucks-moving-in-to-your-neighborhood fear, but just a kind of general what-the-fuck curiousity. What exactly IS going on?? This summer I started seeing Blue Marble everywhere. At first it was just in about, oh, EVERY ice cream case I came across in the city. And then it spread to little carts in parks. I found them at Brooklyn Flea, All Good Things in Tribeca, SummerStage, Pier 25, and Beach 97 Concession at Rockaway Beach. I hate to be that guy, but at some point, it stops being special and unique. It just becomes. . . ice cream.
Blue Marble Ice Cream was founded in 2007 by Jennie Dundas and Alexis Miesen, two ladies living in Brooklyn with a passion for quality ingredients, a premium product, and to nurture their community around them. (We've heard this start-up once-upon-a-time story before, haven't we?) The eco-friendly eatery (the "blue marble" reference takes its name supposedly from a 1972 photo of earth from the moon) makes its ice cream in small batches on a farm in Hudson Valley, NY, using organic grass-fed dairy and organic sugar. They have eco-conscious elements (biodegradable cups and spoons and reclaimed and otherwise "green" building materials) and a focus on supporting sustainable, responsible agriculture.
Their first shop opened on Atlantic Avenue in Cobble/ Boerum Hill back in a time when this blogger could still afford to live there, and Atlantic offered little in terms of oh, I dunno, fun (unless you like antiquing, in which case, I do apologize). My ex and I were THRILLED to have a super duper cool ice cream shop in walking distance of our apartment! On our first venture, I had for the first time - before Red Mango took over my heart - their Yogurt Culture flavor. It tasted like actual yogurt!! How cool was that!? All the same, I remember that I went with Classic Strawberry. It had REAL strawberries in it! I thought it was the best freakin stuff I'd ever tasted. Blue Marble may have been the reason I'm writing this today.
In 2010 the Atlantic shop closed, but they had already moved to Court Street, wooing children all through the nabe, and had a second prosperous location in Prospect Heights. So what happened?
WINTER. According to the New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC), "Busy summers would give way to slow periods during cold weather months, leaving Dundas and Miesen with no staff and having to scoop ice cream, without taking salaries. To offset slow winter sales, Blue Marble entered the wholesale scene in 2010. Soon after, sales to restaurants and retailers in the New York metro area exploded and included prime placement at foodie favorites Bareburger, Harlem Shake, and Danny Meyer properties including Gramercy Terrace. "Business is so much about the relationships and building partnerships," said Dundas. "Launching the wholesale division was so exciting and seemed the next natural stage in Blue Marble’s evolution."
With wholesale came distribution deals, loans for larger machinery, and a new plant in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, in a historic industrial complex originally built in 1895. From a workforce of four, they now employ 30. A quick look at their website offers a whole lot of generic corporate company speak, but not a whole lotta personality. ("We’ve worked hard to grow in responsible, sustainable ways and to offer our wholesome, super premium organic ice cream to as wide and diverse an audience as possible. Over the years, this mission has driven and defined us, as a business and as people.")
The NYBDC website claims that the company has its eyes now on ecommerce, a new flagship retail center, and is possibly looking to open up outlets in other Northeast cities.
So I'm curious: how's your stomach feeling? Queasy? Everyone has a different opinion on this type of growth, especially New Yorkers. As a tour guide, I way prefer showing people things they can't get back home: Katz's pastrami, John's pizza, Ferrara's cannoli, a hot dog from Gray's Papaya. But perhaps I'm spoiled that way; I live in a city that can support mom-and-pops, and unique, one-of-a-kind food destinations. But we are simultaneously a city of growth and big dreams, we root for the underdog to grow from rags-to-riches (see: R.H. Macy). It's a precarious line. All eyes on you, Blue Marble gals.