Who doesn't love ice cream? In Salted Creamery cofounder and owner Kendra Burkey's experience, the answer is almost no one. Burkey counts herself among those throngs of ice cream fans so, in essence, when starting the business back in 2012 with Holly Nickel she created the perfect summer job for herself.
"It started with our desire to do something with our hands, to do something creative," Burkey said. ""We just started dreaming of starting a business together. We were both looking for a creative outlet and so we just started brainstorming some ideas of what we could make. I think I had the idea of gourmet hot dogs, and thank goodness Holly had the idea of ice cream and we went with ice cream."
Burkey and Nickel were both teaching at Hesston College when they started discussing a summer side business, and eventually took a leap of faith. As Burkey put it, they did everything entrepreneurial seminars tell you not to do, but after plenty of research — and trial and error — they began to get their bearings.
"Over the course of a couple of months we started to kind of perfect our ice cream base and we started to make some ice creams where, when we took a bit we thought, 'yeah, we can sell this; yeah, people will like this,'" Burkey said. "We kind of just rolled with the punches and we figured out what we were capable of doing; what her strengths were, what my strengths were and we went from there."
Starting out, Salted Creamery solely did deliveries of their various pints (with flavors like salted caramel, rhubarb crisp, berry cheesecake, dark chocolate and vanilla bean) and Burkey noted the business morphed as they went. Nickel eventually bought the Lincoln Perk in Hesston, which featured a gelato case and commercial batch freezer, allowing Salted Creamery to do production and sales en masse.
In 2015, Burkey took sole ownership of Salted Creamery and partnered with Prairie Harvest in Newton — her current base of operations for making and selling ice cream products.
Given that she works full-time (teaching journalism and speech) at Hesston College during the school year, production doesn't kick into high gear for Burkey until about mid-May. That's when she will spend the majority of her time making the ice cream both stocked on the shelves at Prairie Harvest and that she sells by the scoop outside of the store each Thursday during the summer months.
Typically, over the course of a week in the summer, Burkey said she will churn out about 50 pints of ice cream — though there is no rigid schedule she is holding to in that production process.
"I don't really have a system or a plan; I kind of just think about what I want to make that day and I make it. I have those flavors that fly off the shelf and I'm constantly having to re-up those. Some days, I do some experimentation," Burkey said. "Oftentimes, I'm just prepping all of the ingredients that go into the ice cream, all of the mix-ins."
Scheduling of kitchen use also has to be taken into account, as there are many food producers utilizing the space at Prairie Harvest, but even that is something that Burkey has made a part of the production process. She is currently working with the Prairie Harvest bakers on a new product, an ice cream sandwich.
Additionally, Burkey is often experimenting with new flavors, like a coffee and peppernut ice cream she is currently workshopping — something that is more common in the summer.
"That's something I'd really like to do a lot more often," Burkey said. "Typically in the summer I will rotate in one new or newer flavor every week. Sometimes it will be a flavor that everybody loves and I just bring it back; like key lime pie was really popular, and so I think I'm gonna work that into the normal line-up."
Other staples of the Salted Creamery line-up are top sellers like salted caramel ("the perfect flavor," according to Burkey) and berry cheesecake, as well as rhubarb crisp — a personal favorite for Burkey, as it encapsulates her childhood and her mom's signature summer recipe.
When it comes to creating new flavors, while Burkey is not afraid to branch out (experimenting with the likes of avocado and bourbon pecan ice cream, e.g.), she tends to hold to a very simple, personal philosophy.
"I want to eat ice cream that has the most chocolate you can possibly get in that ice cream," Burkey said. "I want to eat something that has brownies and cookies and hot fudge and just the most stuff; that's what I'm drawn to."
Creating a decadent, indulgent treat is something Burkey enjoys. In fact, Burkey is looking for even more opportunities to do just that — whether catering wedding receptions or pairing with local groups (like Newton Girl Scouts) to create custom flavors.
Seeing Salted Creamery as a good addition to the revitalization of Newton, Burkey is hopeful her ice cream will help continue to draw people into the community. Going back to the nearly universal love of ice cream, she thinks Salted Creamery can certainly play a role in that.
On top of that, working with a product that provides limitless creative opportunities and nearly universal joy (a contrast to public speaking, one of the subjects she teaches) continues to bring Burkey fulfillment and keeps her going.
"I love the ice cream as a blank slate. I love that there are endless combinations that you can dream up for ice cream," Burkey said. "There are rarely days where I wake up in the morning and think, 'oh no, I have to go make ice cream;' the day that happens I think will be the day that I decide to pack it all in."
For more information on Salted Creamery, visit its Facebook page.