Katie Burford runs her downtown Durango ice cream parlor, Cream Bean Berry, in pigtails and yellow knee-highs depicting honeycomb and bees. She has two master’s degrees, both acquired before the idea of ice cream set off fireworks in her mind on an otherwise nondescript morning. After obtaining a degree in social work and working in the adolescent ward of a psychiatric hospital, Burford “started to suspect that wasn’t the career for me.” Reading a Rolling Stone magazine on the plane flying home after a year working in Spain as an au pair, she suddenly knew what she wanted. Cue master’s degree #2 in journalism. An adventurous career followed, with posts in Chile and then Mexico City, where her first son was born. Priorities shifted with motherhood and Burford relocated to the more comfortable, secure reporter’s desk at The Durango Herald. She had another son, got promoted, and got sober, all of which led to ice cream, as these things do.
Did you always know you’d go into ice cream?
Burford: I never thought I’d leave journalism. But getting sober brought me more clarity and energy, and allowed me to start looking beyond the next 24 hours. I wanted something more creative. In my drinking years, I spent a lot of time in my kitchen making things. I liked being productive in the kitchen but it also gave me the illusion of functionality.
And when kids are little we tend to be home with them a lot, and it helps to have something to do.
Burford: Yes, I was tied to the house and maybe didn’t feel so confident in my parenting then, so being busy in the kitchen and garden was a way to create a little distance. The kitchen felt like a safe place to be. One morning, I was making lunches for the kids and listening to NPR, and they were doing a program on Gelato University in North Carolina, and I thought: I’m gonna start an ice cream business.
Had you been considering an ice cream business?
Burford: I had been making a lot of ice cream at home, so I was in an ice cream frame of mind.
If you had known all you know now about running an ice cream business when you left for Gelato University, would that have changed anything?
Burford: Maybe. I have a habit of committing myself to a path and then discovering its way harder after I’m committed.
How have your values influenced your business?
Burford: Environmental sustainability and community involvement is important to me. Our milk, cream, and sugar are organic. I try to source the add-ins locally and organically when I can. I have receptacles for recycling and compost alongside the trash bin. When you’re a local business you have an obligation to the community that supports you. We donate a lot of ice cream and gift cards to nonprofits. I was just looking at the books this morning, and despite the fires and tourism being down, we had our busiest summer. The locals really showed up.
Who came up with your business name?
Burford: I did. I mulled it over for weeks. Coming from a writing background it was important to come up with something good. I wanted a name that elicited the wholesomeness of what goes into it.
What’s your relationship to sugar?
Burford: I traffic in it (laughs). Ice cream is delicious. It’s not a health food. It’s a treat. It deserves to exist and I’m gonna be the one who sells it.
What’s your favorite flavor?
Burford: I don’t have one.
How did the chanterelle mushroom flavor go over?
Burford: We have a man who comes in every fall looking for it.
Do you eat ice cream daily?
Burford: In small amounts. I love it right out of the machine. My favorite is whatever is new. We create a new flavor every month. Most recently, we made black forest cherry, which was a dark chocolate base with dark chocolate cake and cherries mixed in.
How do you keep the cake intact when you mix it in?
Burford: We hand mix everything.
Burford: Yup. We put the “hand” in handcrafted. There are three routes in making ice cream. One: you buy tubs of pre-made ice cream. Two: you buy a mix of base flavor, and add your other flavors. Or, three: you make your ice cream on site. This is what we do.
What do you want the public to know?
Burford: How grateful I am that when I put this crazy idea out there, so many people were willing to support me.
Are your sons sick of ice cream?
Burford: They are not.