Cowhaus Creamery has taken a licking — and managed to come out ahead.
When COVID-19 hit, Cowhaus owner Josef Bomback made the difficult decision to close his Oberlin ice cream shop, which he had opened a decade ago, and sell directly to the consumer from his Elyria factory store.
“We hated to let that go,” says Bomback, who graduated from Oberlin College with degrees in music and international politics. “But it was probably the best thing we ever did. We’ve never been busier.”
The business model is simple: Cowhaus Creamery posts available flavors on its Facebook page, customers place their orders and pick them up curbside on Saturdays at the factory store located at 405 Woodland Ave. in Elyria. (They are closed January through March.)
Bomback reasons that his recent sales may be driven, at least in part, by the state of the world. “People were afraid to go out and didn’t really want to go out,” he says. “They were looking for maybe something to indulge in a little bit.”
And Cowhaus ice cream is an indulgence indeed.
Bomback, a former music producer who travelled the world for his work, prides himself both on his creativity and a keen sense for what flavor combinations work. “I draw inspiration from everything,” he says, noting his time spent in Italy and China especially. “I have a lot of flavor history. No matter where I go, I’ll eat anything.”
His more adventurous flavors have included Seaweed, Fennel Pollen and Caraway Seed Brittle. Still, Bomback is adamant that he never makes a flavor just for the “weird factor.” It has to actually taste good.
Trial and error can be a huge part of that. When seaweed didn’t go over great with his customers, Bomback found himself with quite a bit of a sea salt ice cream base. “What the hell?” he pondered. “I don’t want to throw it out.”
He took the sea salt base and started rippling butterscotch in. The result was named Salt & Scotch — and it’s one of the best-selling flavors.
Other more conventional flavors include Belgian Chocolate, Soda Fountain Vanilla, Storm Mountain Coffee, Roasted Banana and Firelands Mint.
But Cowhaus Creamery customers can be sure that the adventurous flavors will keep on coming.
As Bomback explains, “One of the things I’ve always said is that we’re committed to breaking things — and that’s the norm and expectations.”