Beat the Heat with Some Locally Made Craigers Ice Cream
How sweet it is.
- CategoryEat & Drink, People
- Written byMary Grace Morrison
- Photographed byMonica Orozco
- Illustrated byYasmine Kahsai
Husband and wife Brenda Bloom and Craig Miller were first introduced to the culinary world through ice cream. Brenda’s first job was at Friendly’s restaurant in Connecticut, and Craig worked as a soda jerk at Howard Johnson’s in New Jersey.
Craig always knew he wanted to work in the restaurant industry, so just before his 18th birthday he opened his first business: a breakfast and lunch diner in the corner store of his hometown. But his true passion was making ice cream.
Eight years ago he met Brenda, who had fond memories of making fudge with her mom. The two of them quickly realized they had what Craig refers to as “a link and a passion,” sparking their idea to start a fudge and ice cream shop.
After deciding on the name Craigers, Brenda and Craig explored the country together to learn about chocolate. “We went out to Pennsylvania,” Craig says. “We actually learned from one of the top companies about chocolate itself.” The pair agreed that before owning a successful business, they had to become masters at their craft.
In 2016, after spending five years perfecting their culinary skills and fine-tuning Brenda’s family fudge recipe, they were ready to open shop. At first they struggled to land a commercial-grade kitchen, but they finally found one through a friend who closed her restaurant on Mondays. She agreed to let them use her kitchen after hours, and Brenda and Craig finally had a location to start cooking.
“Success isn’t measured in the amount of dollars that you put into your savings account. It’s measured in what you give to other people and what they’re able to give back to you.”
Now they needed a place to sell their product. They reached out to various South Bay farmers markets but were repeatedly turned down. “We brought product everywhere,” Brenda shares.
Feeling defeated, they made one last stop at the Torrance Certified Farmers Market. “I went over there … [and] we saw the manager. She said ‘Oh, we don’t have any space.’ We said, ‘Here’s a sample of our product … have at it.’ That night we got a phone call. ‘Absolutely! No second-guessing this. We have a place for you on Tuesdays.’”
After that Craigers quickly gained traction. Soon farmers markets in Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach and Palos Verdes reached out to them. They also scored a deal with Amazon Fresh, a subsidiary of Amazon that delivers local products straight to the consumer’s door.
Despite the growing demand for their product, Brenda and Craig were still cooking in the rented kitchen on Mondays and weeknights. They realized that to keep Craigers alive, they needed to find their own storefront. Brenda stumbled upon their current location in Redondo Beach by accident while driving home along the Pacific Coast Highway. Within months, their new store was up and running.
Brenda and Craig continued to find creative ways to improve their business. They expanded their products to include ice cream and vegan sorbet, all made from fresh ingredients sourced from local farmers markets. Consequently, many of their sorbet flavors are seasonal, so Craigers never runs out of imaginative flavors. “[Craig] dreams recipes,” says Brenda. “He wakes up in the morning and says, ‘Okay, I got it. This is what I’m going to do.’”
Brenda and Craig remain dedicated to their original idea of creating quality products from quality ingredients. When asked about their growing business, Brenda says, “Success isn’t measured in the amount of dollars that you put into your savings account. It’s measured in what you give to other people and what they’re able to give back to you. As special as we might treat [our customers], they respond in kind.”