Black Brothas Making Flavorful Ice Cream

Black Brothas Making Flavorful Ice Cream

The owners behind Baltimore's best ice cream are focused on expanding their business and keeping Black boys employed

by Melanie Yvette, August 15, 2013

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Black Brothas Making Flavorful Ice Cream

Darius Wilmore and De'Von Brown

When it comes to finding delicious ice cream in the city of Baltimore, the rule is: you must visit the Taharka Brother's factory to taste a scoop (or two) of the homemade dessert. The minute you step in, you will be greeted with not only the smell of homemade, creamy ice cream of all sorts at your fingertips, but also a crop young Black men hard at work churning, dancing and explaining why you should try the "Chaka Khan" or the 'Richard Pryor Moment'. Between the assortment of flavors that no other ice cream shop would dare dream of to the live energy of the shop itself, there's no explanation needed as to why the Taharka Bros. Ice Cream is not only bringing in more money, but also becoming the talk of the town. 

Taharka Bros: We’ve always been big fans of EBONY magazine, and we’ve become bigger fans since it’s revamp. We buy it every month. We’re honored to be down, so we first want to say thank you for considering us.

EBONY: We love your company and what you’re doing. How did two Black men end up starting their own ice cream brand?

Devon: Taharka Brothers actually started in the ‘90s. It began as a non-profit organization and it was developed so young guys in the urban city could have a type of platform. It was created to help them have a voice and give them certain skills in terms of running their own businesses. It wasn’t until 2010 that we became a for-profit company.

EBONY: Take me from 2010 until now. How did you completely revamp your company and end up getting your ice cream sold in over thirty-nine locations in Baltimore?

Darius: You know it had a lot to do with the election of Barack Obama and his whole campaign when he was first running for office. We became a for-profit that was actually a benefit corporation. I’m not sure if you know about those, but they are social business ventures. So we became a “b-corporation”. Obama’s election had a big inspirational affect on our business, especially in regard to social activism. We wanted to use what young people did in terms of social activism and electing Obama and apply that to Taharka Brothers. We decided, going forward, that we would use ice cream as a social engager to make a profit and help out in our community.

EBONY: So was this like an Oprah “ah-ha” moment, or were there many trials to figuring out the perfect social business model?

Darius: It was all a process; it wasn’t like we sat down one day and said, “Hey, we’ll use ice cream as a vehicle for social engagement and talk about issues of social change.” It just evolved. Then we thought even further about what would happen when you brought a bunch of young brothers to work on something amazing together. You got Michael who does distribution, Colby who is the chef, who by the way just turned twenty and he makes all the ice cream. What happens when you have all three of these brothers in the room? Magic. You got these cultural things that come out of these youth and the art that they create. So you have all of that artistically right there in the room with you and brothers from the east side and west side hanging out, talking, working together. It’s right there, you see it all right there.

EBONY: It’s amazing to be able to make money out of a business like this. How you do consciously incorporate a social message in your product?

Darius: The flavors reflect what we’re trying to talk about and our staff shows that we’re out here supporting young Black men. It’s really young guys running the business.

Devon: And the progress is great; it’s working. We are an award winning ice cream truck.

EBONY: You have some of the most unique names for ice cream. How do you come up with the names of your flavors?

Darius: Well it depends; the names are oftentimes born out of ideas. I’ll use this as an example: we were sitting in the office and a new friend of ours came over to the factory and brought his father over. His father’s from Mississippi. So they come on over to hang out and he wants to show his father the factory because he’s a big fan. So we keep talking and Alex, the young guys name, let us know that he wrote a paper on Black standup comics So we get into this whole conversation about that and then somehow about race. And the Taharka factory is located in the middle of what used to be Klu Klux Klan territory way back in the day, in the Jim Crow era. During the conversation, Devon mentioned something about white dudes in Hamden, walking around, referring to each other as ‘Nigga’ in a Black person’s presence. So then Alex’s father says that qualifies as a ‘Richard Pryor’ moment. In other words, that’s something that, at this time if her were alive and a comic, Richard Pryor might have done a skit about. So we all bust out laughing. Right after we were like, "Yo, that’s a flavor name!" We should do a flavor about that and call it a Richard Pryor Moment. So that’s how that name came about and I actually spoke with Rain Pryor (Richard Pryor's daughter) and she gave us her blessing about the name.

EBONY: It’s so cool that you all have such in depth stories about the names of your ice cream. Where do you make the ice cream?

Darius: We have a factory, so we have a factory 2500 in Baltimore. I am telling you there is no factory like ours.

EBONY: What do you see happening for the future of your company?

Devon: Well, I mean, we’re an ice cream company. We bought in revenue of $300,000 last year but our goal is to hit the $500,000 mark. The goal is to grow our business, get into restaurants, Philadelphia and then launch our own pint line. A few years ago we were only in Baltimore City. But now we’re in D.C., and we’re showing to Virginia and Philadelphia. So we’ve expanded a little. We do have pints in stores now; it’s just not at the level that we want it to be. You may not know, but certain grocery stores limit the shelf space and they sell shelf space to vendor. It's like paying rent. So if you’re a smaller company and you don’t have extraordinarily deep pockets, you won’t be able to pay  to rent the shelf-space in the hopes that somebody will buy your stuff.

EBONY: How can people get to your ice cream?

Devon: It will be available in the future to buy the pints online, but right now we have a Google map that has all of our restaurants where you can get the ice cream. But we’re also available online at http://www.taharkabrothers.org.

 
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