A few years ago, Chris Cardo and his wife Katherine moved back home to WNY, from Raleigh, North Carolina. Cardo said that they did this to be closer to family, but after talking to him, I also believe that it was to reinvent themselves. In Raleigh, they owned a limousine service. In WNY? You might say that they did the exact opposite, if there is such a thing.
They ended up purchasing an ice cream shop on Chautauqua Lake (Boxcar Barney’s Ice Cream) around three years ago, and then a bakery in Fredonia (Upper Crust) shortly after that. You’re probably thinking that their ‘sweet tooths’ got the best of them, but that’s not exactly what happened. While they were certainly interested in the ‘sweet’ aspect of these businesses, their goals were to transform them into more organic and health conscious versions of their former selves.
“It’s funny to think that two health conscious people ended up purchasing an ice cream shop and a bakery,” said Chris [laughing]. “These were both well-established businesses – Upper Crust had been around for 20 years. We wanted to make healthy changes, without compromising the products. Same thing with the ice cream place – they were serving Hershey’s, and we wanted to perfect our own home made ice cream using quality, organic, locally sourced (whenever possible) ingredients. Most ice cream shops are not from scratch – we set out to pasteurize the ice cream ourselves, using organic egg yolks, local cream, no gums or stabilizers, using the richest and simplest ingredients. Our desire was to eat healthier – to introduce twists on products that are typically considered unhealthy.”
Now, the plan is to open their newest venture, Barney’s Classic + Plant Based Ice Cream, at 754 Elmwood Avenue, sometime in early March. “This will be our first shop out this way,” explained Chris. “The location was extremely important. The production will be off-site, and we will use a refrigeration truck to bring the product to the location. Our goal is to open shops in additional Buffalo locations in years to come.”
Along with the traditional organic ice cream, Chris and Katherine are also excited to be introducing a line of plant-based ice cream that Chris says is tough to tell the difference from classic ice cream. “We use oak milk and cashew milk,” he explained. “It took us some time to perfect. There is less sugar than traditional ice cream, which allows the flavors to shine through a lot more. The plant-based ice creams are not overly sweet, which people really love. We use ingredients that typically are not found in ice cream flavors, such as real mint from an organic mint farm. We also use all natural coloring, such as beat juice. These are healthier alternatives, and most people can’t tell they are plant-based. They are that good. They also appeal to customers who are lactose intolerant.”
The couple is keen on growing their businesses in ways that they feel will benefit greatly from the health-infused updates. This type of growth means that they are investing heavily in R+D, as well as the best ways to implement the changes.
“We’ve been investing a lot into the ice cream equipment,” said Chris, whose mother is a culinary teacher, which is where he derived his passion for culinary arts. “We are supplying our ice cream to our own shops exclusively at this point, and eventually we want to break into the pint market, which is when you will see our products on grocery shelves. At this point, we’re not on a lot of people’s radar, but that’s going to change.”
Obviously, Chris and Kathleen are up to their elbows in ice cream, literally and figuratively. “It’s exhausting, and stressful… especially when you keep going back to the drawing board, but now it’s paid off… and as they say, if you like what you do, it’s not like it’s work.”
Thankfully, Chris and Kathleen are enjoying what they are doing, because it won’t be long before we can all reap the tasty rewards. Personally, I gave up on ice cream years ago, but I’m excited to taste test these plant-based versions and get the real scoop in the process.