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Meet Darla Crask of Ices Plain & Fancy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Darla Crask.

Hi Darla, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
We opened Ices Plain & Fancy seven years ago. A couple of friends from college wanted to help open a business that would be a vibrant part of St. Louis. My brother is a chef, and having made liquid nitrogen ice cream in his restaurant career, he sold us on the idea of making ice cream in this fun way while using the best ingredients we can get, so it ends up being some of the best ice cream ever. I brought a pretty random set of skills to the table – I had been working in general contracting with my father, managing nightclubs, bartending, had spent some time working for a marketing company, was a sushi chef’s assistant – little of this, little of that. Haha looking back, I did attempt to keep one of my night jobs when we first opened. That lasted maybe two whole weeks, I have no idea what I was thinking. My last contracting job with my dad before he retired for good and I dove into my new life running Ices was, we built Ices. So I really do know this place inside and out. It’s exactly where I want to be. We really wanted a place that would be a memory-maker for friends and families, a great job experience for the team, and have a lovingly crafted product. We take a lot of pride in our ice cream; we partnered with a local dairy farm, Rolling Lawns Farm, and our dairy is 100% single-source and the freshest you can get anywhere. (I can go pet the cows whenever I want, which is also a bonus.) We take ice cream very seriously! It’s a super nostalgic food that can transport you, and its purpose is to treat yourself, your friends, whoever. It’s a little mental break from your day, so it’s our job to make it awesome.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Ice cream is a very seasonal business, so winters are a challenge. We are boot-strappers with big ideas! So sometimes plans take a long time to come to fruition on account of saving up money to do them, and that can be frustrating. Covid, of course, caused a lot of sleepless nights – knowing that decisions had to be made and if they weren’t the correct decisions right off the bat, we might not make it. Before Covid, we had robustly grown our catering program, opened a booth at the Enterprise Center for hockey season, had expansion plans – I was so sure that our winter worries were finally over! Of course, the pandemic took that all off of the table for a year. It took determination, the wholehearted support of our year-round crew, and the incredible loyalty of our customers, but we made it through! My gosh, I learned a lot this year. This whole place has taught me so many things. Even when it’s hard, there is no place I’d rather be.

We’ve been impressed with Ices Plain & Fancy, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Ices Plain & Fancy is an ice cream shop in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis that specializes in liquid nitrogen ice cream made-to-order and classic-churn ice cream by the pint. Our ice cream base is single-source from Rolling Lawns Farm, a 100-year-old Holstein farm in Greenville, IL. Our ingredients are all carefully chosen to be the very best available and support local farms whenever possible in order to bring you the very best ice cream around!

Who else deserves credit in your story?
This is very much a group effort! Along with myself and my brother Max, our shop team consists of three wonderful managers – Matt, who is daily puree-ing, jamming, roasting, chopping, mixing in the kitchen (and his second job, telling me we’re all gonna be ok); Jenny, who can turn from talking a groom through the perfect ice-cream wedding surprise to managing the teenagers like a ship captain; and Nick, who keeps us all amazed by his sheer level of energy and absolutely THE BEST customer-service skills I have ever seen. Nyssia, our assistant-manager, learning the management ropes and keeping us all up to date with the latest slang. They all doubled-down and threw in when Covid hit and we would not have made it without them. And to the rest of the crew – the respect everyone shows each other and the pride that is taken in what we do and how we treat people – it is a joy to sling ice cream with you!

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Image Credits
Caitlin Lally

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