They met in med school and bonded while gutting houses together in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but it was while they were visiting Seattle to attend an emergency medicine conference that Shawn and Nicole Patterson discovered their true passion (besides each other): ice cream.
“We went into a scoop shop called Molly Moon’s, and as we were eating the ice cream, we thought, ‘Wow, this ice cream is so much better than any ice cream we’d had before,’” recalls Shawn. “If they called it chocolate, it had real chocolate. The pistachio had real pistachio.”
Molly Moon’s was a revelation. At the time, the couple was living in Columbus, Ohio, not especially known for its frozen treats. “I got home and started researching ways to make ice cream,” says Shawn. He found that most of the ice cream production in the U.S. starts with flavor bases. “The ice cream parlor orders a flavor concentrate syrup cooked up in a lab—red for strawberry, green for pistachio,” he explains. “Then they mix it with a dairy mix. That’s the kind of ice cream we’d been exposed to.”
Shawn started watching online videos about ice cream production. “All when Nicole wasn’t home,” he jokes. Then one day when Nicole returned from work, Shawn was ready with a pitch. “I know this sounds crazy,” he started, “but I’ve researched this for months, and I want us to start making ice cream.”
The couple had talked about doing something in addition to medicine for a while. Something fun and completely different from medicine that they could do on the side. They’d even thought about opening a pizza restaurant. Shawn made his pitch about ice cream, “and I couldn’t believe it when Nicole bought it!”
In early 2014 they went down to Florida, where both their families are from, to attend an “ice cream boot camp” run by the Emery Thompson company, whose eponymous founder had invented the world’s first automated batch freezer. Afterwards, the Pattersons bought a batch freezer for themselves and had it delivered to them in Ohio.
“We thought we’d bought a small machine, but when it was delivered it weighed 400 pounds, and had to run on 220 volts. We had no outlet in the house we could plug it in to,” recalls Shawn. “We got two men and a truck to come over and help move the machine into the kitchen, and then we got an electrical company to come. And then we started making ice cream.” Adds Nicole: “That was the only thing that got us through the awful winters of Columbus, Ohio.”
Nicole was in the last year of a fellowship there, and Shawn was working every night from Wednesday through Saturday. “Every night the hospital computer system would crash. . . and every night at 3:30 a.m. it would be ice cream scooping time,” he says. After about four or five months, there were people coming to the hospital in the middle of the night just for the ice cream.
All this time the couple was developing their flavors and refining their ice-cream making technique. “We knew we had to nail vanilla, “ says Shawn. “Once we got that down we started playing around with things we like: mint chocolate chip, peanut butter." The couple was putting a lot of money into what was still a hobby, not really thinking about the cost. “We made one flavor with Tupelo honey and real pistachios that I calculated would have had to cost $15 a pint if we tried to sell it!” says Shawn.
One aspect of ice-cream manufacturing that fascinated them both was the science behind it all. "It's food chemistry," explains Shawn. "An interesting learning experience." For example, when the couple was developing their strawberry flavor, they didn't want to use a flavor syrup as a substitute for real fruit. "We were told that using frozen strawberries was the best way to do it," says Shawn, "but that made the ice cream texture too icy. There had to be a better way." And they found it. "Now we start with freeze-dried strawberries and rehydrate them using our cream. It makes the creamiest strawberry ice cream I've ever had."
By the time the couple left Columbus and moved to Florida, they were ready to see if wholesale manufacturing could be their side business. And in October 2014, Beauregard’s Homemade Ice Cream was born.
So far Floridians have embraced the ice cream as enthusiastically as Ohioans did. The couple sell pints to a local grocery store (Wynn’s Market in Naples, Florida) and just began selling tubs to restaurants so they can be served as part of the dinner menu. They also purchased an ice cream cart they can take to local festivals or bring to the grocery store to hand out samples.
In addition to the usual chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry standards, Beauregard’s flavors include Sandy Beach, a sea-salted caramel ice cream with smoked almond pieces; Caribbean Breeze, hickory smoked coconut ice cream with caramelized pineapple pieces; and Thai peanut, a creamy peanut butter ice cream with a hint of coconut and cayenne pepper.
“We do have really fun flavors, but one of my earliest memories is of my dad taking me for a mint chocolate chunk milkshake after I got a haircut. So my favorite is probably mint chocolate chip,” says Shawn. “Beauregard’s is a bit different, since we use a combination of peppermint and spearmint.”
Nicole is partial to some of the company’s new flavors, like Key Lime Pie and Collier Crunch (malted vanilla ice cream with chunks of peanut brittle and dark chocolate).
The couple has lots of plans for Beauregard’s. . . after they get their student loan situation under control and can invest more in the company. For now, when they have a day off together, they make ice cream—enough to stock grocery store shelves and sell to local restaurants. “There’s more than enough demand right now in Naples to keep us going,” says Shawn. “We want to make sure our product is high quality and our customers like it before we expand too much.”
One aspect of running a business they had to adjust to is the timing. “In the medical field, especially in emergency medicine, we’re used to getting things done—right now!” says Nicole. “But things don’t work like that in the real world. If you call someone, you might not get a call back for three or four days. That took some getting used to.”
Eventually, the Pattersons would like to buy a bigger batch maker. And they’d love to open a scoop shop where they can serve their ice cream to individual customers. “Right now, from a monetary standpoint, Beauregard’s is still more of a hobby,” says Nicole. “But we’re hoping to make it more of a business in the next couple of years.”
But whatever the future of the company, the most important thing, for this couple, is to keep it fun and keep it delicious.