After COVID-related supply chain interruptions forced Connie Brown to close The Brown Cow, 7347 Madison St., in 2020, the community rallied around her to raise $62,000 to assist in the construction of an in-house creamery. Though the project went $80,000 over budget the donations helped Brown build the infrastructure necessary to bolster her own shop and has since evolved to create opportunities for other local businesses to create and store their own custom ice cream.
“I am literally only here today because of this community,” said Brown. “We built the creamery with the intention of making ice cream for ourselves and kind of organically grew into this model.”
Making use of their 43 employees, the Forest Park shop can produce 300 three-gallon tubs of ice cream per week in their on-site factory, but the shop only needs 180 tubs for itself. The shop receives their fresh cream delivery on Tuesdays, staff members make the ice cream, and it is all sold by the end of the week. The creamery’s efficiency created the capacity for the Brown Cow to collaborate with other businesses to make their own ice cream and sustain the business through slower months.
Brown’s first collaboration is a celebration of coffee made in partnership with Kribi Coffee – locations in Forest Park and Oak Park. They offer the ice cream for sale at the Brown Cow and anticipate Kribi using it as part of their catering program offered through their forthcoming Oak Park location inside of Cross Function Flexible Workspace at the Boulevard Arcade, 1033 South Blvd.
After publicizing the local coffee collaboration on Takeout 25, Brown received a call from Meg and Molly Svec of Spilt Milk who expressed interest in having Brown Cow mix up a custom blend exclusively available at their Oak Park bakery. They settled on black cherry ice cream mixed with Spilt Milk’s popular almond tea cakes. The custom blend is available by the pint at Spilt Milk, 811 South Blvd.
Amerikas, 734 Lake St. in Oak Park, and Media Noche, 6836 Windsor Ave. in Berwyn, make use of Brown Cow’s line of Latin-inspired flavors including avocado, horchata, Mexican hot chocolate. Sugar Beet Co-op, 812 W. Madison St., will begin selling the Brown Cow line of grocery store ice cream in October and Fritzi’s Delicatessen, 113 N. Oak Park Ave., features Brown Cow’s Madagascar vanilla as part of their beverage program.
The Brown Cow also offers private label ice cream for non-food related businesses. Dan Matas of Key Mortgage Services, 7777 Lake St. Suite 100 in River Forest, has Brown mix up a custom ice cream inspired by his grandmother’s “butterscotchy cookies.” Bakers onsite make the cookies according to a family recipe and then blend them into their premium ice cream.
Brown said the shop is nearing capacity for collaborations and looks forward to reaching that point and “seeing how that feels” before making decisions about growing her community creamery even more.
“These kinds of cross collaborations are a win for everyone; If they do well, then we do well, said Brown. “This community kept the Brown Cow open, and I want them to understand the incredible opportunity they have opened to us.”