Ice cream makes nice

By Meryl Fulinara

Kris Swanberg received an ice cream maker as a wedding present last year. Much to the skepticism of her friends, she said she started using it and now sells her homemade ice cream at local grocers.

Swanberg started selling her ice cream on Oct. 20 at Green Grocer, 1402 W. Grand Ave., and officially started making her frozen treat under her company’s name-Nice Cream-a month before that.

“I make all this ice cream for myself,” Swanberg said. “I never think, ‘Oh, this is going to be a great seller,’ and I never really know how the public is going to respond. I have no idea what sells.”

Her first taste of success was this past summer where she made 20 pints of her ice cream for a fundraising bake sale for President-elect Barack Obama. It was only a matter of minutes before she sold out of her frozen treat. Swanberg said it was a fun experience that was one of the main motivaters for her to start her own business.

Now that Nice Cream has ventured out of the comforts of Swanberg’s home and into the refrigerators of Green Grocer and Swim Cafe, 1357 W. Chicago Ave., she not only uses the original ice cream maker attachment that came with her KitchenAid set, but an additional two other ice cream bowls.

“They are the ones that you can get for $75 at Bed Bath and Beyond,” Swanberg said. “I need to get a real one because now I’m a real business.”

When she graduated as a film student from Southern Illinois University, Swanberg said she had no idea how to run a business, much less how to start her own small, independent ice cream company.

“She is putting out a really good product, and she clearly enjoys it,” said Cassie Green, one of the owners of Green Grocer. “She’s enjoying herself, and our customers love it. As far as that goes it looks like she doesn’t need any training.”

After Swanberg held a tasting at Green Grocer when she first launched the company, the store has seen many repeat customers for Nice Cream.

Starting this spring, Swanberg plans on seeking out other small grocery stores in the city like The Goddess and the Grocer, 1646 N. Damen Ave., in Wicker Park.

“She uses mostly organic and, when available, local products, and for us those are the two things [Green Grocer] tries to get. Either a combination of organic and local or one of the two,” Green said.

“[Swanberg] uses local eggs, local dairy and organic sugar. She [even] uses local sweet potatoes for her sweet potato ice cream and toasted marshmallows and pecans.”

Nice Cream revolves around a changing batch of seasonal flavors. Swanberg tries to create flavors that are based on the taste palette of a particular season.

Kathy Gerod, the owner of Swim Cafe, said it was extremely easy for her to let Swanberg sell her product at the small shop in Ukrainian Village this fall.

The two first met a couple years ago, when Swanberg’s husband, Joe, started shooting his web series for, “Young American Bodies,” at the cafe.

“I love [her ice cream],” Gerod said. “I love the uniqueness of the flavors, and I love that all the ingredients are organic and local. I also love that she started this business because she loved making ice cream so much.”

At Green Grocer, the unique take on ice cream has garnered an immense response from customers. Green said her patrons love it because the flavors are unique and the ingredients are of such high quality.

Nice Cream’s unusual flavors are seasonal; this fall season includes honey butter ice cream with spicy cornbread and banana bread ice cream with dark chocolate chips, among others.

“I think the people that are buying my ice cream are [the] adventurous eaters,” Swanberg said.

Swanberg will introduce new winter flavors after she take a little break at the end of December during the holidays.

“More than anything, you could see she has such a passion for [making ice cream],” Gerod said. “Whenever anybody makes anything and their heart is really in it, they put out a really good product and you feel that whenever you eat it.”