There are a lot of great ice cream places in town…I should know, as I frequent most of them! One of my favorites has always been Mason’s Creamery. Not only is their ice cream delicious, but their shop/outdoor area is adorable and the owners are two of the nicest people you’ll ever want to meet or interact with on social media.
Despite summer being such a busy time for the shop, Helen and Jesse, the owners of Mason’s Creamery, were kind enough to take the time to let us get to know a little bit more about them and their business.
What gave you the idea to start Mason’s Creamery?
We’d moved to Cleveland from Los Angeles in 2013, and in part bolstered by Cleveland’s incredibly affordability and support for local businesses, realized we wanted to start our own business. Jesse had gotten Helen an ice cream maker when they first started dating and was enjoying making ice cream for friends and family, so we decided that a mobile ice cream business was an easy way to dip into entrepreneurship.
Tell me about how your business first started and how it’s grown since then.
We started as a mobile business, scooping at farmer’s markets and events in May 2013. The ice cream was made in a shared commercial kitchen space at the Cleveland Culinary Kitchen & Launch. Cleveland is so supportive, and the mobile business did better than we expected. As we were finishing up our first summer, residents of Ohio City reached out about an ice cream shop in the middle of the neighborhood that had recently closed, and asked if we were interested in taking over the space. Going from a mobile set-up, when you’re done as soon as the event is over, to a brick & mortar was a whole new ballgame, but when we catered an event in Ohio City to see how we’d fit into the neighborhood, we knew that it was all or nothing – if we were ever going to open a brick & mortar, we’d want it to be in Ohio City. Now we live in the same neighborhood as our ice cream shop, where we also make the ice cream, so the commute is a breeze.
How has your business pivoted during the pandemic?
When the pandemic first started in March, we ended up shutting down in late March/early April and didn’t reopen until end of May. As we were figuring out reopening, our first and foremost goal was to keep our employees and customers safe. The actual space of the shop is just around 700 SF, which includes a kitchen for ice cream making. We do have a small parking lot, as well as a little backyard that we are fortunate to be able to take advantage of – we always joke we’re more of a parking lot than anything else. We decided to close off the inside of our ice cream shop to employees only in order to keep them as protected as possible, and also to close off our parking lot so that our customers have the space to enjoy ice cream and also be able to physically distance. We’ve been fortunate to have that large outdoor space to play around with for the summer, and are figuring out what to do in the fall/winter when we start serving ramen and it gets colder, so we are continuing to pivot.
Tell me some of your favorite local businesses to work with and why local partnership is so important.
We love the local coffee shops that roast their own beans – we use beans from Phoenix Coffee, Duck Rabbit, or Pour Cleveland which has recently started their own roastery for our coffee ice creams, and also just to drink (caffeine is crucial). We’ve also paired our ice cream with baked treats from Philomena Bake Shop, Brewnuts, and the Macaron Tea Room. Local partnerships are so important because that’s our community – our support matters to those businesses and vice versa.
How do you give back to the community, either personally or professionally?
We support the Near West Rec sports teams and the Stonewall teams (before the virus) and we donate monetarily or via gift card donations to various missions. We recently partnered with Ohio Pie to donate 100% of our sales totaling $1,000 to Mind Matters, a local nonprofit that supports CMSD students in getting to college.
What are your personal favorite products you create?
We both love traveling and trying new foods, so anything we’re able to bring back with us, if you will, means a lot. Helen was born in China, so sharing ice cream flavors like black sesame or adzuki and menu items like egg waffles (puffy pancake-like “waffle” that we pair with ice cream and whipped cream) and seeing people enjoy things they may not have been exposed to otherwise is incredibly fulfilling.
I remember attending the grand opening of Mason’s and am thrilled at how the business has grown since then. Not only is Mason’s a fun and diverse presence on the ice cream scene, but there’s just something truly special about seeing good people succeed. You can learn more about Mason’s Creamery here and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.