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Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery

"Sometimes, following your dreams does work.”

What did the queen of Ice Cream do before making the best ice cream in the country right here in St. Louis? She had a corporate career for 25 years in marketing, brand and strategy and ended up running a $70 million business, in the food industry. 

Now just eight years later, she has over 200 employees, and she’s gone from making ice cream in her kitchen to a plan to go regional this year and eventually national. “We just built a new manufacturing facility in North City to support growth to 50 parlors, and are going to do our first capital raise this year to support expansion and growth,” Tamara says. “Exciting times. Sometimes, following your dreams does work.”

Making the creamy dream is not new to Tamara. “I have been making ice cream my whole life,” she says. “When I was a child, ice cream entirely changed my sense of community. We grew up poor. After church on Sundays, the other families would meet at the local ice cream parlor. I remember tugging on my mom’s dress, begging her for us to join them for ice cream, not knowing the financial burden a trip to the ice cream parlor would cause our family of nine.”

As fate would have it, Tamara’s mom purchased an old hand-crank ice cream maker for $2 at a garage sale. “That was the day my life changed forever.”

After that, Tamara’s house became the destination for the “Sunday Ice-cream Social.”

“When other families in our church heard we were making ice cream, they started asking to come to our house to make it too. “We couldn't afford to pay for it for everyone, so one family would bring the milk, and another family would bring the cream, etc.,” she said.

Tamara was no stranger to success either. “In 2014, I was running a $70 million business, on the road all the time, commuting back and forth from St. Louis to Columbus, successfully climbing the corporate ladder. I had my dream job, dream salary—everything I thought I ever wanted, until I didn’t,” she says. “Exhausted, unhappy, single, no kids, no family, and rarely seeing my friends, I was miserable.”

But she says her closest girlfriends rescued her when on a weekend getaway, they talked her into following her ice cream dreams. “So that weekend, we wrote my business plan, put together my financials and I resigned two weeks later.”

She started her business in her kitchen in 2014 selling ice cream to neighbors and friends. Before long, she was selling to restaurants and venues around St. Louis, then moving into a shared kitchen space and soon after opening her first shop in May of 2015 in Lafayette Square.

She said she didn't set out to create something new in the market. She set out to create something “better and innovative.”
And make something unique, she did. Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery is named around the two types of ice creams they make. The “Naughty” part is boozy, and the “Nice” part is non-boozy.  “We have a trade-secret process for infusing alcohol into ice cream. And our non-dairy vegan ice creams have been a game changer, especially for those who have dietary restrictions.” 

The Naughty component came into play when a customer asked Tamara if she could infuse some rum into one of her flavors. She didn’t think it was possible. “He kept after me, and it was seeping into my subconscious all the time, and I started to think, ‘How can I make this happen?’ After all, I had access to the best food scientists, chemists and product development people in the world. And I was familiar with lots of new and emerging technologies in food and how people were using them in creative ways. I gathered my closest friends and over a few bottles of wine, I started connecting the dots, experimenting until we honed in on some pretty innovative stuff. Once I realized we had something, I knew it was an opportunity and a really good one in a space where there’s been little innovation since the invention of Dippin’ Dots.”
She also saw the opportunity to infuse something into the non-dairy (Vegan) market that had long been ignored. “I was the first in the Midwest to produce and formulate for the non-dairy, gluten-free market at scale. The alternatives at that time were just terrible and tasted nothing like ice cream. I was going to change that.”

Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery is one of only a handful of micro-creameries in the country, and the only one in Missouri. There are qualifications for the designation. “First, it has to be small batch made in a real ice cream machine (batch freezer), not some large continuous mega-robotic machine that pumps thousands of gallons of product through in a few minutes that no one sees, or tastes, or quality checks. I like to say ours is made by real people with love, concern and care for the quality and the taste of the product.”

Secondly, everything in her product has to be handcrafted. “If there’s a pie, cake or cookie in it, we make it, bake it and put it in it,” she says. “We salt our own caramel and candy our pecans. Or, for some flavors, we collaborate to support other local artisan makers and use their product.”

And everything has to be all-natural. “We are the only ice cream maker in the state of Missouri that is all-natural. No artificial flavors, fillers, emulsifiers, colors etc.,” Tamara says.

The ice cream also has to have less than 30 percent overrun, which is a technical term that describes the air whipped into the ice cream. “Large commercial ice cream manufacturers and most local ice cream shops use 100% overrun, meaning that the pint you get at the store is actually only 50% ice cream; the rest is air,” Tamara says. “Ever had a cone that instantly melted? That’s a great example of 100% overrun. Big commercial brands and most ice cream shops do that to get more volume using less product. Our ice cream is made with approximately 26-28% overrun, so when you taste our pint of any flavor and compare it to another, ours is heavier and denser.”

Lastly, to be a micro creamery, you have to have more than 16% butterfat in the ice cream, which is the component in ice cream that gives it the richness in flavor, the creaminess or smooth texture, the body and the ability not to melt so fast. “It coats your tongue, makes the flavor last and gives it that great creamy mouth feel. Additionally, it carries the other flavors in the ice cream so you can enjoy it longer, leaving you with a lingering aftertaste,” she says. “But it is very expensive, in contrast to using 10% butterfat, which is what most ice cream shops do. All of our ice creams have between 16-18% butterfat, which is why they are so decadent.”

As fate would have it, Tamara’s mom purchased an old hand-crank ice cream maker for $2 at a garage sale. “That was the day my life changed forever.”

Everything in her product is handcrafted. “If there’s a pie, cake or cookie in it, we make it, bake it and put it in it,” Tamara O'Keefe says.

  • Tamara Keefe, Founder & Owner at Clementine's Naughty & Nice Creamery, Photo by Chris Ryan
  • Photo by Chris Ryan
  • Photo by Chris Ryan
  • Photo by Chris Ryan

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