MilkMade ice cream evolves from delivery service to thriving Carroll Gardens storefront

Diana Hardeman, owner of MilkMade, crafts a cone with smoked chocolate s'mores ice cream. Photo Credit: Todd Maisel

The Brooklyn parlor offers 16 freshly made flavors, including six that are seasonal.

Diana Hardeman, owner of MilkMade, crafts a cone with smoked chocolate s'mores ice cream.
Diana Hardeman, owner of MilkMade, crafts a cone with smoked chocolate s’mores ice cream. Photo Credit: Todd Maisel

Necessity was the mother of invention for Brooklyn’s MilkMade. Diana Hardeman, a lifelong ice cream lover, was bored with the flavor selection she found when picking up a pint and unimpressed by the quality of what she got. So, she decided to make her own.

Hardeman decided to establish MilkMade in 2009 as a subscription service that delivers pints to customers each month. Ten years later, MilkMade is sold in some small markets in New York and, luckily for locals, can be purchased at a storefront in Carroll Gardens.

When Hardeman started out, she dreamed up original flavors, sourced high-quality ingredients locally and made pints in her apartment. She started serving it to friends and bringing it to parties.

Word of her delicious ice cream traveled fast. An article on Grub Street about her home-grown operation gave Hardeman a new potential customer base. Within two months of making her first batch, hundreds of people had signed up for the service. Hardeman’s subscription service grew to include an option for people to order pints whenever they wanted.

MilkMade sits in Carroll Gardens.
MilkMade sits in Carroll Gardens. Photo Credit: Todd Maisel

“I didn’t want an experience where someone goes to the supermarket and picks up our ice cream and it’s icy,” the entrepreneur says. “I wanted something where we could get the ice cream as fresh as possible into the hands of customers.”

Hardeman says the Carroll Gardens space came about serendipitously. She was growing the business and needed more room for production. A friend was leaving her own ice cream business, so Hardeman took over the location. As she and her team worked on expanding their delivery service, Brooklynites walking by the space took notice.  

“People started knocking on the door and asking, ‘Where’s the ice cream?’” Hardeman recalls. “They said they needed a local shop.”

After about five or six months, Hardeman decided to give the people what they wanted. In time for the summer of 2015, she opened a tasting room with limited hours and limited flavors. It soon evolved into a full-blown scoop shop.

MilkMade’s ice cream is still made with the same focus on quality and local ingredients that Hardeman applied to pints she made in her apartment. And MilkMade stands out in that each flavor tells a story.

“I always say flavor inspiration comes from everything,” Hardeman explains. “It comes from walking through the Green Market and seeing what’s fresh. You can turn everything into ice cream. Ice cream is this blank canvas where you can paint whatever you want. I encourage my team in the kitchen to think of each ice cream as a work of art.”

Hardeman and her team create flavors based on themes around holidays, movies, topical events (she notes that they try not to get political) and songs. MilkMade recently had a “summer in New York” theme in which flavors were inspired by events in June, like the Pride, Puerto Rican Day and Mermaid parades.

“One of the most beautiful things for me is when a flavor and a theme come together and then we realize there’s a history tied to New York that we can present,” Hardeman says.

COOL FACTS

  • The MilkMade scoop shop serves 16 flavors: 10 signature flavors that were voted all-time favorites by subscribers and six monthly specials.
  • The most popular flavors are Amagansett Sea Salted Caramel; Cobbler Hill (cinnamon sugar ice cream with a fruit cobbler mix-in that changes based on the season); and Gotham Basil Chip (kind of like mint chip but with basil instead of mint).
  • Monthly subscription packages start at $35. Members get two new flavors each month that are never repeated. Hardeman says that so far, she’s created over 207 flavors for the subscription part of MilkMade’s business.
  • MilkMade is located at 204 Sackett St. For more info, visit milkmadeicecream.com.

Courtney Iseman