Bold Spoon Creamery is available at Schnucks, Straub’s and more
This interview will be on “St. Louis on the Air” on Thursday noon hour. This story will be updated after the show. Listen live.
Nestled in the quaint town of Park Hills, St. Francis County, Missouri, is a unique 100% black-owned niche business called Bold Spoon Creamery.
In January 2021, Rachel Burns and her husband, Corey Wilkinson, decided to sell their home in college town and move Burns’ business to the historic pre-war town about seven miles northwest of Farmington. .
Burns, who began making premium ice cream in small batches in 2017, had grown the business to such an extent that it needed more commercial and yard space for its product. The fact that she officially started selling ice cream at the start of a global pandemic that crippled thousands of businesses nationwide is a testament to her tenacity, determination and, above all, her ability to swing.
“Initially, my business plan was to sell primarily to restaurants,” Burns explained. “So you can imagine in March 2020 that wasn’t a viable option because restaurants were closing or just doing curbside service. I wouldn’t call it a setback. It was more of a pivot. I had to find a new avenue.
The history of Bold Spoon Creamery is a testament to entrepreneurship. It all started in 2017 when one of Wilkinson’s college friends brought his family to the couple’s house for a summer swim. About a year earlier, he had planted mint that towered over the garden. Burns remembered the Cuisinart ice cream maker she had in her basement for years and on a whim decided to grab some mint and make a batch of homemade mint ice cream for the kids. visitors.
It was a success. Burns began tinkering with ingredients, brainstorming combinations, and taking notes on her original recipes. In early 2019, a group of friends who dubbed themselves “The Spoons” served as the official taste testers for Burns’ unique multi-flavored ice cream recipes.
“I wasn’t doing flavors like vanilla or strawberry; not that there is anything wrong with them. I was doing flavors like goat cheese and fig, or spicy honey or salty cheese and chocolate. The name “Bold Spoon” comes from the spoons’ comments about its “bold” flavors.
The positive reviews from tasters motivated Burns, a business consultant, to get into the ice cream retail business. She had just ordered a professional ice cream maker in March 2020 when the pandemic hit. Given the unknowns of the coronavirus, she scrapped her plan to strictly market restaurants and took to the streets. She rang the doorbell and before the residents answered, she ran across the street shouting, “Hi, my name is Rachel, I’m your neighbor. We’re starting a new business…just wanted to give you a little treat. Hope you enjoy.”
She left cards with an address online with the samples, and soon she started taking orders. Within about three weeks, Burns, Wilkinson and their son, Harrison, 24, were delivering ice cream every Saturday.
Soon after, Burns began participating in local farmers’ markets. After positive press from magazines such as Sauce and Feast, Bold Spoon entered dozens of local markets such as Straub’s, Smokehouse Market in Chesterfield and Fresh Thyme Market in City Foundry STL, as well as regional retailer Schnucks.
She rented space by the hour at St. Louis Food Works, a downtown commercial kitchen, and bought a much larger ice cream machine to meet the growing demand for her products. Last year, mainly because Wilkinson wanted to move to the countryside, Burns said, they bought a 57-acre farm in Park Hills.
Surrounded by rolling terrain, a gushing river on their property and within sight of the Ozark Mountains, Burns said it was a treat to have people come to the farm, enjoy ice cream by the lake and leave with handmade products. They have space to grow apples, pears, strawberries, mint, and other fresh fruits and herbs that immediately go into her ice cream creations. With a small staff and much more space, they manage to supply their products to nearly 25 locations in St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Francis County.
Burns said she isn’t even considering selling her products nationwide yet. She, Wilkinson and their son plan to branch out and pursue other local opportunities first. She gets requests to secure their kitchen space for baby showers and private parties, where customers can make their own custom ice cream. She is revisiting her earlier plans for delivering to restaurants and creating custom recipes for local wineries. Bold Spoon is also a member of “Harvest Hosts”, a network of wineries, farms, breweries and other unique attractions that invite RVers to get off the beaten path and visit and stay overnight at various member establishments.
For a black-owned company born in the midst of a global pandemic, Bold Spoon is holding its own. At the start of the pandemic, experts predicted that at least 40% of black businesses would succumb to the crisis. Although COVID-19 has done disproportionately pre-existing black injured ironically, according to a 2021 report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, it has also spurred the creation of a surprising number of new black businesses. This growth, according to the report, is a testament to the resilience of African American business owners like Burns.
“I don’t know if it was a problem for us because we started there. But, honestly, the benefit of starting out in the pandemic was that it forced us to be scrappy, resourceful and quick-thinkers,” Burns said. The challenges of the pandemic, she added, prepared her to move forward.
“I think that [COVID] was a plus,” she said. “Because when times return to normal and you’re still able to maintain those attributes, that way of thinking about the future, that can only be a good thing.”
Burns was worried when told how many black businesses are expected to fail due to the pandemic. She knows she is one of the lucky ones and hopes others will be able to creatively pivot and survive through the current crisis. For other black-owned businesses, Burns shared a wish: “I hope they can still hold on to their dreams.”
Kayla Drake produced the “St. Louis on the Air” segment for this story.
Sylvester Brown Jr. is the first Diaconess Fellow of American St. Louis. The St. Louis American is a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.