Serving Pint-Sized Joy
by Carol Banks Weber
At Colibrí Sweets, nobody’s left out of America’s favorite summertime treat. Every Sunday at the Everett Farmers Market, Mukilteo teachers Alphonse and Emily Leopold lovingly serve up dairy-/gluten-free ice cream in a host of fun flavors, from the popular mint chip and chocolate peanut butter, to the newest batch of strawberry mochi and Golden Milk. Tons of vegan-friendly and soy-free options, too.
We use coconut milk and cacao butter (not cow butter… as people sometimes mistakenly hear), Emily describes.
“These are both high in natural fats that allow us to get a creamy ice cream texture without the crazy additives that many non-dairy products use.”
Colibrí Sweets debuted at the Everett Farmers Market two summers ago, and soon became the toast of the town. This past summer, they added the Saturday Edmonds Summer Market to the mix, and will continue serving ice cream all year-‘round with monthly pop-ups, per their social media. That’s the plan, anyway.
Several years ago, the teachers took it upon themselves to investigate the health benefits of dropping dairy from their diets. Their personal discoveries led to Colibrí (humming bird in Spanish), for everyone. “For both health and ethical reasons, we have become very picky about the dairy that we consume (which is very little). We are not fans of most dairy-free ice cream, but we were inspired when we discovered that brands like Frankie & Jo’s and Fiddlehead were producing superb products without dairy,” Emily continues.
We’ve had many food business ideas over the years: we love good food.
Al has experience owning and running restaurants and I run nutrition cooking classes with my culinary nutrition certification… When we considered the idea of making our own ice cream, we realized that it lent itself well to being a seasonal business, which didn’t interfere (at least not too much) with our school year. The idea came up in August and by December, we decided to move forward. We bought our ice cream cart in early January, before we had even started to make the ice cream. We were confident it would all work out.”
The lactose-intolerant, the health-conscious, that kid with a toothache, they all drive up from as far away as Renton for their fix. “Almost every day at the market is a good day…meeting new customers who have allergies or food restrictions and them realizing that our product is safe for them. We also love when there are lulls and we can chat with new people that we meet. We’ve become great friends with some of our customers. We love trading with other vendors, and we feel like royalty when we walk away with strawberries from Hayton Farms, Prana Greens mix from Ananda Farm, Lions Mane mushrooms from Skagit Gourmet Mushrooms, and more. We also enjoy the sunshine…and of course, high sales help too [smiles].”
When COVID-19 hit in March, the Leopolds switched from serving cones to pints, tightened up safety measures, went primarily with online preorders (by Friday 6 p.m. for Everett Farmers Market), and hoped for the best. They source as locally as possible. When they can’t (coconuts don’t grow on NW trees), they work with certified organic companies.
COVID also cut into Colibrí’s profit margin. But the couple chose to continue chugging away, because “we didn’t want to lose our momentum, even if that means Colibrí is less profitable in the short term. We also are committed to the markets staying open. They are such an invaluable resource for communities, and we want to be part of that in whatever way possible. In the face of unpredictability and great change, community is essential. And communities are only as strong as their participating members.” ✦