Entrepreneur Ellen Barber already has a following of loyal customers who love her creations. I met Ellen, the new owner of Red House Ice Cream in Bruce Mines, Ontario recently, and was impressed with her enthusiasm and flair for originality with her business.
“I was looking for a career change,” said Ellen, on why she opened an ice cream parlour. “I went to school, then became a funeral director for over five years. I realized that I couldn’t see myself in the funeral business for the long term. I was burnt out. I am from the Bruce Mines area, so it made sense to come back to my roots.” Ellen noticed that Red House Ice-Cream was for sale, so she decided to make inquiries and the rest is history. She purchased the building, land, and business in March of 2018 and opened soon after.
The first thing Ellen did was switch ice-cream suppliers. It was her decision to bring in Chapman’s ice cream because their products are superior, and because they are an Ontario company that uses 100% Canadian Dairy in their products. "I just love working with Chapman’s and their products in my business.” She now carries over 24 flavours of Chapman’s Ice cream, sherbet, and frozen yogurt.
Ellen told me that it is important to her to use as many local products as possible while supporting local businesses. In addition to Chapman’s, she also uses locally (Algoma) grown and produced rhubarb, berries, apples, and maple syrup in her creations. As well, she sources from Foster’s grocery store right in Bruce Mines as her go-to place for other supplies. She also pointed out that part of her business practice is ensuring she buys products made in Canada that are eco-friendly. For example, she uses paper straws and biodegradable paper or recyclable plastic containers.
What makes Red House Ice Cream extraordinary? Ellen has to the delight of her customers, come up with unique creations, beyond the expected ice-cream cone. How does a “deconstructed pie” cone sound? Or unique homemade sauces, toppings, cakes and cookies? The best descriptions of her creations come from Ellen herself, here are just a few features...
The BIG MACkenzie
Homemade maple marshmallow, homemade maple cream fudge, butter pecan ice cream, Mackenzie Maple syrup, and, if you like... bacon!
A waffle cone lined with strawberry and homemade chocolate sauce, filled with Chapman's Strawberry and Cream ice cream, topped with a white chocolate hard shell, almonds, and another dollop of strawberries.
The Salty Dog
Butter tart sauce, French vanilla ice cream, dark chocolate hard shell, and sourdough pretzels in a waffle cone.
The Old Fashioned
Homemade raisin pie filling and vanilla ice cream, in a waffle cone.
A waffle cone stuffed with cheesecake, black cherry ice cream, Graham crumb crumble, and real whipped cream.
Cookie crumbles on French vanilla with homemade fudge sauce.
Peanut butter cup ice cream, homemade peanut butter marshmallow fudge, and homemade butterscotch sauce.
Bee-bop-a-ree-bop Rhubarb Pie!
Freshly picked rhubarb pie filling, frozen strawberry swirl yogurt, brown sugar crumble real whipped cream, and another drizzle of sauce all in a waffle cone.
Not-So-Rocky Road Sundae
Dutch chocolate ice cream, mini marshmallows, milk chocolate chunks, slivered almonds, and homemade chocolate sauce.
Ellen stressed that when these features are “sold out, they’re sold out.” She may bring all or some back for the 2019 season, but rest assured, there will be new ones!
She loves to create “theme treats” like for the Sylvan Circle Art Tour she made an apple pie crumble ice cream in a waffle cone. For Canada Day, she had a red and white theme.
Red House will also stay open later if a local ball team is playing to accommodate their schedule for the hungry ballplayers, or if there is a community event happening.
Ellen is currently looking for specialty products to accommodate all dietary needs like vegan and nut-free, as she wants to be as inclusive as she can for as many people as she can. She is also looking for an ice-cream extruder to make soft ice cream combined with berries and other toppings. She is even experimenting with new offerings, like soft pretzels.
What is Ellen’s inspiration? “I don’t like store-bought, premade food. All of mine are homemade. Like homemade cookies to make ice cream sandwiches, or original sauces like butter tart sauce made from a secret family recipe, or a plant-based chocolate sauce, coconut or maple sour cream sauces.”
She told me ice cream cakes have become a high-demand item during the season. She needs a minimum of two days' notice. Prices range from $25 to $45 depending on the ingredients and she will take special requests. One cake serves 8-12 people, depending on the size of the slice.
While Ellen is the owner of the business, she relies on her family to help with the renovations and work in the shop during the season. Her parents, Marla Adamson Barber and Kevin Barber, as well as her grandparents, have been big supporters, and she is grateful for their help.
Her customers are from all over the North Shore, as well as travellers visiting or passing through. She has had customers from countries like Finland, Germany, and really from all over the world. She boasts that her shop is the perfect place to stop. There is lots of parking along the highway and the waterfront park is right across the road. Future plans are to add outside seating and a deck.
Ellen has made a big career change; from helping people deal with the most difficult time of their lives, to the happiness and delight of serving ice cream. What could be more opposite than that? As Ellen says, “Because everyone deserves a good ice-cream cone”. I agree Ellen!
Red House Ice Cream
9172 Hwy 17 Bruce Mines, ON
*visit Red House Ice Cream's Facebook page updates to hours of operation
Regular business hours are Weekdays 12 noon – 9 PM
Weekends 11 AM – 9 PM