A Bruin Guide to an Offbeat Summer
Published Jul 1, 2015 8:00 AM
Summer’s on the horizon. Kicking back. Hitting the road. Bound for the beach. With a little help from your fellow Bruins, some truly unique experiences are just waiting to be yours.
Coolhaus, the architecturally inspired, gourmet ice cream truck business started by former Bruin architecture student Natasha Case M.A. ’08 and Freya Estreller, couldn’t have had a hipper starting locale: the 2009 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Turns out the popular pre-summer event provided the perfect launch platform for Coolhaus’ sweet-and-savory ice cream treats.
“We were 25 years old and had no start-up capital,” says Case. “The only way to get out there was with personal credit cards, social media and a truck.” Purchased on the cheap, the truck (an old postal van) was inoperative. Undaunted, the duo invested in a platinum AAA membership and had the vehicle towed to Coachella.
Their efforts paid off. Today, Coolhaus is globally informing the masses about architecture and design. Says Case, “Ice cream is a canvas, a way to make those worlds more fun and accessible.” The pair has expanded the brand, with trucks in Los Angeles, New York, Austin and Dallas; two brick-and-mortar L.A.- based storefronts; and distribution to national grocery store chains like Whole Foods, Kroger and Safeway, and even retailers in the Philippines and the Cayman Islands.
Architecturally inspired ice cream wasn’t always Case’s life mission. After graduation, she worked at Disney Imagineering as an architect. When layoffs hit, Case tried to soften the blow for her colleagues via a former UCLA project: Farchitecture = Food + Architecture. Disney employees lined up for Case’s ice cream sandwiches, named after architectural movements and architects — e.g., the Frank Gehry-inspired Frank Berry, a snickerdoodle cookie/strawberry ice cream combo.
When Case received her own pink slip, she and Estreller decided that “if Ben and Jerry could be successful with rock ’n’ roll ice cream, we could do the same with architecture and ice cream.”
This summer, Case says, the cool kids will be consuming Coolhaus’ “Vietnamese Iced Coffee” and ice cream flavors such as “Spicy Pineapple Cilantro with Serrano Chilis,” “Blueberry Sweet Corn,” “Dirty Mint Julep,” “Avocado Sriracha,” “Southern Belle” and “Thai Tea.”
For New Yorkers battling summer humidity, Case recommends spicy sorbets. The treat she targets for Angelenos? “Iced coffee with a scoop of ice cream.”
Cool As Ice
Roberto Sequeira M.B.A. ’07 wants you to slow down. In fact, he’s all about freezing moments in time. Literally. The Bruin got the idea for his luxury ice company, Gläce, while attending UCLA Anderson School. His mission: Get people to revel in the moment.
Gläce was born in one of Sequeira’s M.B.A. classes, when the instructor asked the students to come up with business concepts. Turning the assignment on its head, Sequeira and his classmates developed a set of criteria for finding the “perfect” business. They considered watches, cars, clothes and shoes before arriving at ice.
“The business had to be simple, niche, high-margin and luxury,” Sequeira recalls. And ice “is a $4-billion-a-year industry, 100-percent commoditized, with a good marketplace. But no one had made any improvements on it since the early 1900s, when refrigeration was invented.”
After graduation, Sequeira couldn’t forget the idea. In building an ice business, ordinary cubes posed three challenges: the quick melting and dilution of a drink; the fact that there’s nothing special about ice; and the fact that everyone usually makes their own.
Where luxury ice made a true difference was as a complement to fine spirits. Designing an ice for special moments was Sequeira’s goal. He hit the mark in 2008 with the slow-melting Gläce, which has become known for its clarity, consistency and zero-taste profile. How the $24.99 pouch of ice is produced remains a closely guarded secret.
Critics lashed out, saying that “the brand represented everything they perceived wrong with America,” Sequeira says. “But the whole idea behind developing slow-melting ice was that I saw a world going too fast toward Red Bull and vodka. We’d lost that relationship between a bartender and client and what happens when people slow down enough to enjoy a drink.”
And Sequeira knows just how to rekindle that relationship: “A nice, smooth, citrusy Scotch over Gläce is the perfect fit.”