By Bonnie Hulkower
Churn, baby, churn. It seems too simple or comical, like an episode of Portlandia or an Onion caption about San Francisco. But Ed Belden did just that, when he started a bike-powered ice cream shop in Los Angeles, a city more often known for its car culture.
Belden’s shop, Peddler’s Creamery, is the first of its kind in L.A. The store opened in April to coincide with Earth Day and Ciclavia, the quarterly bike event that transforms many L.A. streets into car-free spaces. April’s Ciclavia route went by Belden’s storefront and he sold out of all nine flavors by the day’s end.
Belden first started peddling his bike-powered ice cream from a MacGuyver-tricked-out tricycle at events around L.A. Pedaling the trike’s wheels turns the stainless steel ice cream churner attached to the back of the bike. Belden creates artisanal ice cream flavors, such as Mexican chocolate, salted caramel, and mint chocolate cookie. For every four miles, or about twenty minutes of pedaling, he makes five gallons of ice cream.
Belden soon decided he wanted his own storefront, a place where people could come to him. He believed a bike-powered ice cream shop would perfectly suit the zeitgeist in L.A. Increasingly, cars are sharing the road with cyclists. Events like Ciclavia are becoming more popular and the city is painting miles of new bike lanes.
Belden saw Downtown L.A., or DTLA, as the perfect site for his new venture. An area once known for drugs and the nearby Skid Row, DTLA now represents the revitalization that is happening in city centers across the U.S. as many Americans seek walkable, car-less lifestyles. DTLA is that rare part of the city in which many residents don’t own cars.
At first, Belden wanted to open a storefront in a historic or LEED-certified building. He eventually chose a new apartment building that has both subsidized housing and artist lofts. He found the building’s social mission compelling and considered it a good fit for his vision of sustainability.
Belden can be spotted at the shop in the evenings after a full day of work at the National Forest Foundation, another green business. The shop is a labor of love for him, spurred on by the generosity of investors (friends, family, Kickstarter contributors) and his own savings.
The evening is also the liveliest time to visit the shop, when residents come in for a scoop after a dinner at Pete’s and random onlookers poke their heads in after seeing the bike contraption in the window.
Once a lone peddler on his bike, Belden now has six employees. Employees and customers alike take turns at the wheel, but you must be prepared to bike for twenty minutes straight to maintain the quality and consistency of the ice cream.
For Belden, this isn’t just a novelty food fad, like pop rocks, wheatgrass shots or bacon everything (When will this be over? Soon! Please?), but a calling. He not only believes in the renewable resource of human powered energy, he also believes in sourcing organic ingredients, using compostable cups and spoons, and producing a quality product. Even if people were drawn in by the wheels, they return for the simple pleasure of a smooth, slightly sweet scoop of tasty ice cream.
Peddler’s Creamery is located at 458 S. Main Street in Downtown Los Angeles. http://www.peddlerscreamery.com
[Image credit: Bonnie Hulkower and peddlers creamery]