Lauren Guptill Owner of "Rococo" Artisan Ice Cream Parlor

Rococo Artisan Ice Cream in Kennebunkport Maine; Photo Credits,Lauren Guptill

 

 

“Rococo” may not be the first word that comes to mind when thinking about ice cream. Can this beloved frozen treat really be compared to an entire art movement? Lauren Guptill has no doubts in this regard. She is the owner of Rococo Artisan Ice Cream in Kennebunkport, Maine, where each day surprising, bold flavors and loving, painstaking methodology push back against the crystallized status quo of mediocre, unadventurous ice cream. Stonewash Magazine recently spoke to Guptill about the origins of Rococo, how she approaches the art of ice cream daily, and what she sees on the horizon for both herself and the business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lauren Guptill Owner of "Rococo" Artisan Ice Cream Parlor/Photo Credits: Lauren Guptill

Lauren Guptill Owner of “Rococo” Artisan Ice Cream Parlor/Photo Credits:Lauren Guptill

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself.

My full name is Lauren Guptill and I was born in Maine. My family has a deep­rooted history in the Berwick area of Maine, having resided on the same property since the 1600s. The history and culture of Maine has always held a strong position in my heart. That being said, I have always had a strong desire to see the world, and to learn about other cultures and traditions in all the corners of the world. Exploring has always been a value of mine, and I love to explore. I have been found exploring anywhere from the bustling markets of India to the colorful barrios of Buenos Aires to my own beautiful family farm in Maine.

 www.rococoicecream.com

 

 Q: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time, when you’re not at Rococo?

In the summer I don’t think I have any spare time! The summer is a very busy season for Rococo, but that being said, I am mindful to find a few minutes to myself, no matter where I am. I love good­tasting food that has been consciously prepared. I am a big fan of many of the great restaurants in Kennebunkport, which provide me with a great meal and a couple of minutes to recuperate during the busy summer days. For example, Salt & Honey has gotten me through many a crazy day. I also try to maintain time for me to get in a run. Whether I am training for a road­race or just going for a jog, running provides me with the time to clear my mind and put my thoughts into focus.

 

 

 Q: Is Rococo the first ice cream parlor you’ve owned? If not, tell us about your first. And also tell us about Rococo? How did you get started? About how old were you, at the time?

Rococo Artisan Ice Cream is the first ice cream parlor I have owned, but it is not my first business. Rococo came about, in part, during my time living and owning a business in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During my early 20s, I moved to Argentina and created my own study abroad company in Buenos Aires. After owning a business in and residing in Argentina for 5 years, I began to miss the rugged coast of Maine. I decided to sell my company, and began to look around for new possibilities of a business that could bring me back to Maine.

I knew I wanted to have a store front that would allow me a closer connection to the customer that I was working with, something that I lacked with my study abroad business. I also knew I wanted to be located in a town with a strong community.

One of my favorite things in Argentina was the ice cream. I loved the creaminess of the product and the care that the ice cream makers distilled into their craft. After some time of thinking, I came to the amazing conclusion that I could put in the same hard work that I instilled in the study abroad business to create an ice cream store that is both focused on the quality of the product as well as the satisfaction and joy that the customer will receive with each scoop of ice cream.

 

Q: What are your day­to­day responsibilities as a business owner?

I think most small­ business owners will agree that each new day is a complete change of “day­to­day responsibilities.” Even though we are in the process of opening up a new shop in Ogunquit, Maine, we are still very much a small­person operation. My biggest responsibility for the day is making all of the ice cream for the stores. This can be quite the process as I, along with my assistant, do all of the prep work and make all of the ice cream ourselves. Our ice cream is made all in small batches – this means 5 or 6 containers per batch, and flavors quickly change at our Kennebunkport shop. So my main objective daily is to make sure that the inventory for the day is up to date. In addition to that, we are currently creating a new store in Ogunquit, so my days are busy with managing the construction and installation of the new store front. I also like to spend time in Kennebunkport every day, to connect with the excellent staff there and to spend time with new visitors to the shop, as well as catch­up with old friends that have been visiting the store for the past 5 years.

 

Q: What kind of ice cream does Rococo serve? Do you purchase your ingredients directly from a local company?

Rococo serves Artisan Ice Cream. Every batch of ice cream is handmade and hand crafted by myself and my assistant. We put the utmost detail into each batch. Our ice cream base is my own sweet cream creation and we source the dairy from two small dairy farms, one in New Hampshire and the other in Vermont. I am incredibly mindful about the flavors that we create and I strive to present to the customers flavors that are delicious, diverse and designed by the world. On a philosophical approach, our name Rococo is a metaphor for how we strive to create our ice cream. The Rococo art period was a reaction against the strict confines of the mid-18th century Baroque period. The Rococo period was known for its whimsical and spontaneous design, a strong contrast with the regulations of the church and government ordained Baroque period. For me, I strive to create a flavor that is whimsically different from traditional hard­-scooped ice cream. I am committed to creating flavors and incorporating ingredients that allow our ice cream to stand out against traditional hard­-scooped ice creams.

 

Q: What are your peak and slow seasons? Are you open year-­round?

Our store fronts are not open year round. Our Kennebunkport and Ogunquit store fronts are open from the beginning of May to the end of October. Our scoop windows at Bob’s Clam Hut are year round and Brewster’s Market is open as long as the business is open for the season. While our peak season is the hot and humid Maine summers, we sell ice cream via pints year round, as well as catering small events.

 

 

 

 

 

Q: How many staff do you currently have?

In addition to myself, I have an amazing assistant who helps me with production as well as day­to­day logistics. I also have an awesome manager at Kennebunkport who treats the shop as if it were his own and loves the interactions he has both with our regulars and friends from out of town. I also have a dedicated crew of scoopers at both the Kennebunkport and Ogunquit locations, these scoopers, most of them being high school and college age, are all incredibly friendly and outgoing, excited about providing the utmost joy to the customer and welcoming faces that strongly represent the values and ideals of Kennebunkport and Ogunquit.

 

Q: When it comes to “front of the house service,” what are three things that are most important to you?

The most important thing at Rococo is my customers. We have had some great customers, from next­door neighbors to others from far away that come to visit every year. The most important thing to me is to make sure that every customer that comes into Rococo feels welcomed and invited. Eating ice cream is a joyful experience, and I love to provide a welcoming atmosphere that increases my friends’ and neighbors’ summertime experience. Whether they are on a trip to the beautiful Maine coast, or a
local Mainer enjoying the summer and taking a break from the hustle and bustle of life, I love to give everyone a cone along with a smile.

 

Q: What are some of your strengths and weaknesses compared to your competitors?

I believe that our greatest strength compared to our competitors is the genuinity of our product. All of our products are made with genuine ingredients, sourced as locally as possible. I am committed to producing a quality product that I find joy in serving to my family, friends, neighbors and visitors. Each scoop of ice cream is made with the utmost care by myself and my assistant. We do not have a team of flavor scientist concocting the most accurate taste that resembles Chambord, no! Instead it is solely myself in the kitchen carefully reducing blackberries into a top­of­the­shelf bottle of Chambord for our Goat Cheese Blackberry Chambord. I think the authenticity of our flavors really shines in each scoop of ice cream served.

As for weaknesses, I find that our competitors simply have more means to produce more ice cream. With our ice cream now at 4 locations, I am spending a lot of time in the kitchen carefully prepping everything. With all the other work that goes into a small business, I find my time to be very precious and I am constantly under pressure to make sure everything is time­managed effectively. However, while this may be viewed as a weakness, I also enjoy the benefits as in the past 5 years I have found myself really defining how to organize my time as well as really cherishing handling every batch. Even though it may be a lot of work when I am right in the thick of it, I really do enjoy the trusting idea that my product is only passing through a few very select hands before it reaches the patrons.

 

Q: Where do you see Rococo in the next two years, and how does your current location/region fit in?

This past year has been a very exciting year with the opening of our new shop! I love being in Maine and I really enjoy having Rococo be a part of the ever­growing food movement here. For the next two years I really plan on focusing on our Ogunquit shop, and making sure that we have a smooth transition into this beautiful town that is also my home town. I love being in Maine and am so content to be a part of this culture, but I am also working on a “Pint Club” to launch in the fall, so visitors and friends from around the country can have a little bit of Maine – and Rococo – in their life all year round.

 

Q: Could you describe your management style? Also, the type of person you believe would fit well as a worker at Rococo?

I really believe in instilling trust and confidence when it comes to managing. We have some amazing scoopers at both of our shops, young adults who are hardworking and friendly. For some, their first job has been as a scooper at Rococo, and I really believe that instilling them with the trust and confidence to do a good job is very important. I love to have a close relationship with my workers so that they feel valued and appreciated. I know for a lot of them a “scooping” job is a way to manage their summers or to pay for college, but I want them to know that there are skills here, like customer service and problem solving, which will benefit them as they go on to become doctors, or writers, or lawyers or small ­business owners themselves.

 

Lauren Guptill Owner of "Rococo" Artisan Ice Cream Parlor

Q: What do you love about running Rococo? Do you have any dislikes? Do you have a favorite memory from since opening Rococo?

For the past 5 years every thought and action has seemed to revolve around Rococo, I certainly love this business and everything that it stands for. The memories I have of this place are countless, from my first summer where I would scoop all day and then stay up until 3 am preparing the next day’s ice creams, to the nice compliments I have received from customers, to the very first day when I had a ribbon­cutting ceremony with my family, friends and kind neighbors.

But perhaps my favorite memory is from an experience I had in my third summer. I was out running errands – picking up some fresh ingredients – when I noticed several missed calls from my dad. This wasn’t surprising, my dad often calls me to check in. He commutes from his family farm in Maine to Boston every day, and often gets bored of listening to the radio, so he calls to check in on me and my siblings as well.

This day was different – when I picked up, I could tell his voice was filled with excitement! He hurriedly told me to turn on my car radio, and I was shocked to hear the radio DJ talking about Rococo! Unbeknownst to me, all of the amazing feedback from my customers on TripAdvisor had landed me a spot in the top 10 ice cream parlors across the nation. I was absolutely floored and incredibly grateful to all the amazing customers I have had over the past years, but more than that I felt so proud of myself, of my ice cream and of all the hard work I had accomplished through many long nights striving to produce an ice cream that would make everyone joyful on a summer day.

 

Editor, David Sano

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