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Issue Seven / Interview
“There’s an emotional response you have to really good ice cream, you can see it on people’s faces—it’s just pure happiness”

Phin & Phebe’s Ice Cream

Words by Katie Searle-Williams Photographs by Leo Patrone

Crista and Jess started Phin & Phebes when they couldn’t find “clean” ice cream at the store. Now their brand is booming with flavors like Vietnamese Iced Coffee and Ginger Snap.

Phin & Phebes (pronounced “Fin” and “Feebes”) Ice Cream is the labor of love of Brooklyn couple Crista (the blonde) and Jess. Phin is short for Phinizy, which is a family name of Crista’s. Phebe is Jess’s middle name. The duo made its first batch of ice cream in February 2010, while pursuing a new wintertime hobby. Their first flavor, Fluffnut—inspired by the Ritz cracker, peanut butter and marshmallow sandwiches they loved as kids—is now the name of their family dog. Every weekend of the following three months was filled with prototyping and sketching out recipes on the chalkboard wall in their home kitchen.

In January 2011, almost a year after their Fluffnut batch was created, Jess and Crista did two important things: They attended Penn State’s famous weeklong ice cream course, Ice Cream University, and they quit their jobs. With their growing knowledge and overstocked freezer(s), they realized that their hobby was starting to outgrow itself, and they launched their passion into Phin & Phebes. We chatted with them about how their business came to exist.

What do you love most about ice cream?
It makes you feel good! If you’re sad or had a bad day, it can cheer you up. If you’re happy, it makes you happier. There’s an emotional response you have to really good ice cream, you can see it on people’s faces—it’s just pure happiness. Remember when you were a child and you had that first bite of ice cream and had such an emotional rush? That is why we continue to make ice cream and that is what we believe eating ice cream should feel like.

What brought you into the ice cream business?
It really just started as a hobby and we figured out pretty soon that we had an obsession for making ice cream with interesting concepts. There was nothing in the freezer aisle that had clean labels (no stabilizers, syrups and emulsifiers) that was actually fun and exhilarating to eat. This, combined with our desire to build and make something (this company), kind of sealed the deal for us.

How do you come up with new flavors?
We tend to eat a lot and we are inspired by foods we are currently eating or lusting over. Usually Jess (Phebes) will bring up some ingredient that she is interested in making an ice cream flavor with, and Crista (Phin) will start blurting out flavor ideas after the brain juices get flowing. From there we prototype our vision in our kitchen until we come up with a flavor we’re really happy with.

What’s your favorite flavor?
This is really hard, because it changes all the time! Jess’ sentimental childhood favorite flavor is Black Raspberry and her favorite Phin & Phebes flavor rotates between Vanilla Cinnamon, Vietnamese Iced Coffee and Banana Whama. Crista’s favorite flavor is our Vanilla Cinnamon; clearly she’s more decisive on this issue.

What’s it like working as a couple?
Most of the time it is great, but sometimes it’s really hard to not talk about work all of the time and not making that the center of our relationship. I think that any small-business owner would agree that they find it hard to not focus on work all the time. Essentially your business becomes your life, and Phin & Phebes is our life. It’s like raising a child, except the child is actually an ice cream company.

What do you see in the future for Phin and Phebes?
Our big goal is to change what people think about ice cream with fun, exciting flavors that you can feel good about eating. Even though ice cream is not “healthy,” it’s one of the purest foods you can eat (if you eat the right ones). We’re not entirely sure what the future holds but we’re always reevaluating and figuring out the best way to grow as a small company.

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