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Food & Drink

The Scoop on Phin & Phebes Ice Cream

(Photo: Laurel Golio)

Is there another food that can send us into a nostalgic spiral faster than ice cream? Summers at the ballpark, trips to the boardwalk, mornings in Ho Chi Minh City… While the flavors of Phin and Phebes are unconventional, there’s something strangely familiar and comforting about each one.

Three years ago, Jess Eddy and Crista Freeman worked in software consulting and e-commerce management, with no idea ice cream would become a big part of their lives. “I had very specific memories around ice cream growing up,” explains Jess, “but I wouldn’t say we were ice cream fanatics beforehand.” That was until an overpriced, lackluster store-bought pint inspired them to try making their own at home. “We thought we could do better than that!” recalls Crista. They bought a two-quart Cuisinart ice cream machine and began experimenting in their Greenpoint apartment, sharing their “inventions” with loved ones.

With encouragement from friends, Crista and Jess started thinking about selling their ice cream. A few months later they had seven prototypes and a brand name: Phin, from Phinizy, a family name coveted by Crista, and Phebe, Jess’s middle name. They debuted their ice cream to the public at the Brooklyn Lyceum Fair and quickly sold out. Taking this as a sign to move forward, Jess and Crista rented space in a commercial kitchen and began making batches of half pints, which they sold to Marlow & Daughters in Williamsburg and Brucie in Cobble Hill. Meanwhile, they continued to work at their day jobs.

The ice cream was flying off the shelves and the two overwhelmed moonlighters couldn’t keep up with the orders. It became apparent that this wasn't a part-time venture, so in late 2010 Jess and Crista quit their jobs and fully embraced Phin & Phebes. 

“What do you do when you start a career? You go back to school,” jokes Jess. They enrolled in a ten-day intensive course at Penn State’s Ice Cream University. After graduation Jess and Crista panicked as the reality of their new business set in, but like true entrepreneurs they embraced the risk, developed a business plan and never turned back.

Production outgrew their kitchen and they moved it to a facility in Massachusetts, but the creative process still happens at Jess and Crista's home in Greenpoint. They try to incorporate surprising, original flavors that make even a staunch purist question their loyalty to that pint of plain chocolate. For example, the Vietnamese Iced Coffee has subtle hints of cardamom and chicory, a welcomed twist on generic coffee.

There are now five flavors available - Vietnamese Iced Coffee, Coconut Key Lime, Banana Whama, Ginger Cookie Snap and Vanilla Cinnamon - but Jess and Cristia hint there may be forthcoming chocolate and peanut butter varieties and an improved, more graham-crackery version of their Coconut Key Lime. 

While they periodically entertain the idea of a scoop shop, Jess and Crista are focused on growing their pint sales. As of this month, Phin & Phebes will have expanded to 130 stores throughout New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions. A full list of retail locations can be found here, but you can also sample their creations at this year’s Tasting Brooklyn event.

 

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