Photos by Asia Morris.
I thought the wise words of the Long Beach woman I interviewed months ago had burned too deep a hole in my pocket of pending pieces for the Post, but when Long Beach Creamery won our online publication’s 2015 Best Ice Cream in Long Beach category, I decided, what better time to put her story out than now?
Our readers have spoken, and what they’ve clearly voiced, by a whopping 31.8 percent margin, is that Long Beach Creamery is an inspiration to aspiring experimenters, and a hometown treasure to be cherished.
While Long Beach Creamery owner and founder Dina Amadril’s humble beginnings were well documented by the Post in 2014, we caught up with the busy small business owner again several months after she successfully opened her Bixby Knolls brick and mortar in May of last year to discover how work was going, and found out so much more. While the start of Amadril’s cream-churning career began in 2013, the makings of her entrepreneurship began in a blue-collar bar in Wakefield, Rhode Island. As a recent college graduate, bartender Amadril saw an opportunity and seized it.
“[The owner] would have little hot dogs behind the counter and in order for her to have her liquor license she had to have food, and the hot dogs weren’t really cuttin’ it,” Amadril said. “So I said to her, ‘Hey, I want to start somethin’.’ She had a kitchen. No one ever used it. It was all greasy. I asked, ‘Can I clean your kitchen? We can make a deal. I’ll sell stuff and then pay you a percentage.’ She’s like, ‘Sure, why not?’”
Thus began Amadril’s “little Mexican food thing,” a short-lived operation that she enjoyed, yet, in the long run, she struggled to squeeze a profit from. When it came down to the numbers, the 25 cents per hour in profits she was making made her realize it was time to move on. That was when she decided “it was a bad environment. I had about $150 bucks and a truck. I said, ‘Let’s get outta here.’”
But when Amadril moved to Long Beach, the first job she landed lasted 25 years. Her go-get-it attitude was forced into dormancy with the offerings of a nine-to-five, yet her ideas never stopped flowing.
“I talked about a million different ideas until I was tired of hearing myself just say stuff,” she said. “I would draft out a big idea, or what I thought was a big idea, then I wouldn’t do anything. I think maybe it was in the overwhelming category or I was settled enough and making a good paycheck. I made good money, I got this promotion, that promotion and… I mean once you get a paycheck, things kind of change a little bit."
Amadril elaborated, stating that with security sometimes comes a stifling environment.
"So I would think of ideas, but I would never take the risk," she said. "And I think that’s because of the security level, the being overwhelmed, the remembrance of you did that and it kind of sucked.”
Nowadays, Amadril is focused on keeping up, riding the massive wave she started solely with a KitchenAid attachment and a passion for experimenting, and satisfying a local ice cream fanaticism she never could have predicted. After initially opening the shop, she soon found out she’d need another ice cream spinner, because the one she already had just wasn’t meeting the community’s immediate demand for more. Since that time, she’s dealt with production issues, training an entire staff and juggling logistics she didn’t think she’d encounter at this point. What was supposed to be an upgraded, efficient, state law-abiding location for production outside of her home has quickly become one of Bixby Knolls’ most popular storefronts.
“I didn’t think the scooping business here was going to be such a big thing,” she said. “I figured I’d sell at MADE [in Long Beach] or through Kress Markets or online or we’d deliver it; we’d have to get it out to people from here, but now people are coming here to eat it.”
Not only is she keeping up with demand, but she’s experimenting with flavors all the time. At least two new flavors come out of the woodwork every week. It’s a matter of creativity, yes, but it’s also a way to ensure that not one food product goes to waste. Long Beach Creamery is as much a boon to the city’s growing scene of food establishments sourcing local products as it is a great place to get a scoop of Lemon Blue Black for an afternoon treat.
“If we have a little bit left over from this chocolate that we made, a little bit left over from the pecan thing, let’s see how we can we put those things together,” said Amadril. “And those have created some of the best ice creams, the ones that people like the most.”
And when the going gets tough, like when a piece of equipment isn’t working the way it should or some hoodlum finds a way to break in and take the cash box, Amadril finds a way to look at it with a healthy sense of humor and the motivation to simply keep taking steps forward, even if they’re measured in tiptoes and not feet.
“There’s nothing real sad about ice cream,” she said. “That’s another thing, if I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s just damn ice cream, I’m not doing brain surgery, it’s just something to make people happy. But you gotta ride the dragon. Where’s it goin’, where’s it goin’? You have to be constantly thinking on your feet.”
Now with a second ice cream spinner, locally-sourced fresh ingredients dropped off at the shop regularly and brand new products like ice cream cakes, ice cream bread and ice cream sandwiches being made (and new flavors concocted every week), Long Beach Creamery is well on its way to finding its groove.
Amadril is also paying it forward, by turning the shop into a micro coffee house Sunday through Wednesday from 7:00AM to 1:00PM in an effort to help another local budding business, Black Ring Coffee.
“It’s a pop-up concept that helps this Long Beach-based business get started,” she explained. “We are paying forward the favor that Farmlot 59 did for us when we started.”
One thing that’s certainly unique about Long Beach Creamery is the community’s stake in its success, a fact Amadril couldn’t describe without her eyes watering. And while it’s not uncommon these days for a business to foster more transparency online, to garner the kind of interaction and community ownership that creamery has is something of warranted note.
“The people get involved so much, you don’t see that too often,” she said. “It’s beautiful. Because they’ll defend things that I don’t even think need defending. They’ll just jump up and start talking in favor of Long Beach Creamery before I can even answer anything online. And it’s so heart-wrenching, I’m full of gratitude every time that happens.”
So cheers to experimental flavors, like Wednesday’s Cashew Fennel Chip ice cream bread with a salt and pepper glaze paired with a steaming cup of Black Ring Coffee. And don’t be afraid to get really attached (if you haven’t already), because Long Beach, you helped make this happen.
Long Beach Creamery is located at 4141 Long Beach Boulevard.