Jeni Britton Bauer overcomes setbacks on approach to ice-cream success

Fifteen years after Jeni Britton Bauer non-stop her initial Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams emporium in North Market, executive Ohio’s black of ice cream still draws a crowd.

Case in point, when Jeni’s initial dip emporium in Washington, D.C., non-stop this fall, some-more than 2,000 people showed up. At a opening of a fourth dip emporium in Chicago this year, 1,000 people came.

“Every time we open a dip shop, we consider maybe this will be a one where it’s usually normal,” Britton Bauer said. “It hasn’t happened yet.”

It didn’t occur that initial day, Nov. 23, 2002, either.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams non-stop during a Ohio State-Michigan game, meditative there would be light trade during a North Market.

“We were bustling all day,” Britton Bauer said.

She’s been busy since.

Jeni’s has 32 dip shops, from Los Angeles to Charleston, South Carolina, and Chicago to Atlanta; 8 non-stop this year. The association sells a pints in hundreds of grocery stores as well.

Several shops will open subsequent year, including one subsequent to Wrigley Field in Chicago, and someday in 2018, a company’s products will be distributed in each Whole Foods store.

Britton Bauer, 44, has won a James Beard Award for her cookbook, is a nationally famous food luminary and has kicked off a series of trends in a past 15 years, a many apparent one being a season Salty Caramel, that she believes was a initial dip sole during Jeni’s 15 years ago. That flavor combo now graces products trimming from pretzels to lattes.

“The D.C. emporium opening was positively magical,” pronounced CEO John Lowe. “People waited 4 hours to get an Instagram print with Jeni.”

It can be tough to suppose that Jeni’s and Britton Bauer were not always a pound hit.

She had attempted her palm during an ice cream business before. Scream Ice Creams operated in a North Market from 1996 to 2000, featuring a new season each day. It bombed, for a series of reasons. When Britton Bauer (then usually Britton) practical to open Jeni’s in 2002 during North Market, not everybody welcomed her back.

“When she wanted to come behind in, we was like, ‘No, we don’t consider so,'” pronounced Marty McGreevy, owners of Market Blooms. “Someone said, ‘She went to ice cream school,’ and we said, ‘What a ruin is ice cream school?'”

McGreevy was no fan of Scream. She had watched Britton Bauer, from opposite a aisle, onslaught and fail. Little did McGreevy know that Britton Bauer was looking opposite a aisle as well. She remarkable McGreevy’s customer-service character and picked adult lots of tips on how to run a little business.

“I had this solve that this was going to work. This was my shot. ‘We’re not going to destroy this time,'” Britton Bauer said. “(McGreevy) done each customer’s day. we wanted to be like that.

“I was opening Jeni’s to get Marty’s approval.”

She got it, in spades. McGreevy knew right divided that Jeni’s — and Britton Bauer — would be a hit.

“It’s incredible,” McGreevy pronounced of Jeni’s rise, adding that Britton Bauer has grown a lot by a years. “She’s a good ambassador. First for a North Market, afterwards for a city, and she’s now a inhabitant envoy to ice cream.”

Learning a lesson

Britton Bauer credits a lot of her success not usually to examination McGreevy during a North Market, though also to a village and executive Ohio’s mix of large city and farming agribusiness.

The association sources most of a divert from circuitously grass-fed cows, has a ice cream done during Smith Dairy in Orrville, buys whole fields of fruit from Hirsch Fruit Farm nearby Chillicothe and gets whiskey from Middle West Spirits.

“It isn’t surprising for someone in, say, Brooklyn, to post on amicable media about (Jeni’s) Middle West Whiskey and Pecans ice cream,” pronounced Brady Konya, co-founder of Middle West. “That’s been unequivocally fun, and Jeni is so famous in food circles that it has been unequivocally profitable for us.”

Although Jeni’s story is one of rocketing success, it has had a bumps and bruises.

In Apr 2015, Jeni’s removed all of a products and sealed a stores after listeria, a common and dangerous bacteria, was found in a pint of a ice cream in a Whole Foods store in Nebraska. Listeria was also found during a Columbus prolongation kitchen.

The association reopened that June, though usually a shops; a indiscriminate business and online store wouldn’t restart for months. At times during a remember — that cost a association millions of dollars and came during a ramp adult to a busiest season — Britton Bauer and Lowe both suspicion that a association competence not make it.

Now, it’s a covenant to their resilience, and to Jeni’s many adoring fans.

“It is a defining moment,” Britton Bauer said. “You have to unequivocally travel by glow to know, and we know how to do it now. We suspicion we were good during all before that, though currently we are improved during everything, and we indispensable to learn those lessons.”

When Lowe assimilated a association in 2009, from a corporate warn gig during General Electric, Jeni’s had 4 stores and a whole domicile group — Britton Bauer, her husband, Charlie Bauer, and his hermit Tom Bauer — sat during a cruise list in a room off a prolongation kitchen.

“My trainer (at GE) suspicion we was positively insane,” Lowe said. “He gave me a board that said, ‘Fortune favors a brave.’ It’s from Virgil. What he was unequivocally observant was that we was nuts.”

Lowe indispensable to find apart bureau space, start a indiscriminate business from a belligerent up, sinecure a group and outline a devise to build stores outside central Ohio. Today, he has achieved a lot, though he sees most some-more ahead. Just staying on tip of a many identical ice cream concepts that have popped adult given Jeni’s started to grow is both unwieldy and humbling.

“We are still positively tiny,” Lowe said. “But a list of copycats is so prolonged that it is scarcely incomprehensible. That’s proclivity for us to constantly work on a game.”

Flavors mount out

Jeni’s stands out from a rest of a ice cream throng in a peculiarity of a products and a accumulation of a flavors. Although others are perplexing to enter a high-end ice cream shred that Jeni’s plays in, no one has a same cachet, pronounced Dennis Lombardi, a food-service consultant and consultant and principal of Insight Dynamics.

“It’s apparently in a autarchic reward category, and they have differentiated themselves with flavors,” Lombardi said. “You can get things good over a standard 10 to 15 flavors we can get elsewhere. That creates top-of-mind awareness.”

The recognition that Jeni’s creates among customers, and even among people who haven’t had a ice cream, is what creates those prolonged lines occur when shops open, Lombardi said.

“Jeni’s has left by a integrate of tough times, and they have come out and survived,” Lombardi said. “My theory would be, if no one can successfully impersonate a brand, and they enhance wisely,” Jeni’s will continue to find success.

There are rising competitors, such as Salt and Straw, a intelligent West Coast ice cream emporium with about a dozen locations. Salt and Straw has identical whiz-bang season combos such as Honey Lavender or Olive Oil and Lemon Custard, though also a few that competence be a outcome of perplexing too tough to one-up Jeni’s, such as Salted Caramel Thanksgiving Turkey.

“You are going to start saying a presentation of some-more of these concepts,” pronounced Darren Tristano, an independent, Chicago-based food-service analyst. “So, a pivotal for Jeni’s is to continue to find good genuine estate, that is challenging.”

The arriving dip emporium beside Wrigley Field is an instance of how Jeni’s can establish a destiny with intelligent decisions, Tristano said.

“They should do unequivocally good there,” he said. “Not usually will it do good for them, though it should assistance build a brand.”

Staying on course

Although Jeni’s is famous for a singular flavors, such as Sun-Popped Corn, Sweet Potato with Torched Marshmallows, Wildberry Lavender and Brown Butter Almond Brittle, alongside Salty Caramel, vanilla and chocolate, not each season that Britton Bauer has churned adult has been a blockbuster. She identified a few flops, nonetheless she combined that “it’s like carrying children; we usually remember a good stuff.”

“We did a whole garland of flavors desirous by trees,” she said. “People desired Douglas fir. we did not.”

There will be many some-more new flavors, and Britton Bauer pronounced she has usually begun to blemish a aspect on possibilities. One new product this year is a non-dairy flavor, a dark-chocolate truffle origination done with coconut cream instead of milk. There will be another season in that line subsequent year.

As for a future, Britton Bauer pronounced a subsequent 15 years will demeanour a lot like a past 15. Jeni’s will continue to grow, though during a gait a association can sustain, and but franchising. Lowe no longer needs to find out growth partners; they come to him anticipating to land a Jeni’s store.

So, how did that punky lady with a pinkish hair behind a opposite during Scream come to make such waves in what was a peaceful sea of plain-Jane ice creams?

She had a devise all along. When Britton Bauer was 12, her grandmother told her that she could be anything — a doctor, a lawyer, even an astronaut. As she walked away, she motionless she didn’t wish to be a doctor, a counsel or an astronaut, nonetheless that would be cool. Instead, she thought, “I could run my possess business.”

“I always get a question, ‘Did we ever consider you’d be here?'” she said. “Of course, we did. That’s because we’re here.”

jmalone@dispatch.com

@j_d_malone

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