FLORENCE, AL, Monday, June 23: Keith Schroeder, owner of the Atlanta-based ice cream company High Road Craft Ice Cream, had what anyone might call a good problem. Demand for his chef-designed, hand-crafted ice cream got a boost from coverage in national publications such as Real Simple magazine and The New York Times. Orders were coming in from customers, retail stores, restaurants, hotels, and major airlines. Good! The problem? His four-year-old ice cream company was homeless—at the beginning of the summer ice cream season.
The facility where High Road started four years ago in Chamblee, Georgia, was scheduled for demolition at the beginning of May, so Schroeder and his crew moved out. Construction on a new factory for High Road in Marietta was already in the works, and Schroeder anticipated the transition from the old to the new facilities would be fairly smooth, with only a few bumps as his staff got used to the new factory and equipment. Schroeder and his team of chefs tried to stockpile and freeze enough ice cream and sorbet to last until the company finished its transition into the new factory.
High Road Craft Ice Cream provides ice cream mainly for food service—Delta Airlines, and Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas are among High Road’s clients. High Road Craft Ice Cream is also sold by the pint in retail venues such as Whole Foods, Dean & Deluca, Fairway Market, and Rouse’s. Signature flavors include Bourbon Burnt Sugar, Vanilla Fleur de Sel, Brown Butter Pecan, and Strawberry Vanilla. Schroeder uses regionally-sourced ingredients, such as strawberries from South Carolina, sorghum syrup from Tennessee, and honey produced in Atlanta.
Coverage in national media and in food service trade publications for restaurant and hotel chefs created a demand for High Road Craft Ice Cream that quickly topped what Schroeder anticipated. Construction delays put off the transition into High Road’s factory. Schroeder needed to make ice cream, and he had no place to do it.
Schroeder’s team of employees—whom he calls rock stars (traditionally, the door to High Road’s kitchen has had a sign saying “Rock Star Entrance”)—all started looking for solutions, and learned about the Culinary Complex at the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center. Through calls and several trips between Atlanta and Florence, and with the assistance of the team at the Shoals Entrepreneurial Complex, the local and state health inspectors, and relationships with Georgia inspectors, things were moving. Schroeder and his team moved a skeleton crew, one small-batch ice cream machine, a hardening cabinet, and hundreds of pounds of dry ice to Florence. Within two weeks of their first call to Giles McDaniel at the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center Culinary Complex, ice cream was flowing from the kitchen in Florence.
It couldn’t have been sweeter.
“The welcome we’ve had is warm, even right down to the state ag folks that came in to help their neighbor, basically,” Schroeder said. “That was the cool thing about it. They sent people to the rescue immediately to make sure we were up and running.”
Schroeder, who has been a chef for 20 years and has an MBA from Georgia’s Kennesaw State University, hopes he can help other entrepreneurs and start-up businesses in return while High Road is in Florence. “It really inspires us,” he said. “It brings us back to our beginnings and inspires us to be mentors and help other emerging entrepreneurs that we meet in the center and share the experiences that we’ve had in the past four or five years.”
Schroeder hopes High Road’s new factory will be complete in late July or early August. Until then, he and his staff of chefs will continue making ice cream in Florence, and hope to give back and enjoy the local culture. “There’s good food, and the downtown area’s cool for us,” he said.