Kelsey Fisher and Mason Romain, two local bartenders turned ice cream connoisseurs, are the brains and founders behind a new trendy ice cream shop named Parish Parlor, located in the Lower Garden District. Both furloughed from their jobs as craft cocktail bartenders soon after COVID-19 struck, the duo had a bold and courageous idea to start a business of their own, pulling from their experience in making tasty cocktails and creating flavor profiles that transcended into creative ice cream flavors such as spiced pear elderflower and mulled wine sorbets. Recently, we spoke with Kelsey to learn more about how the business got started, how Kelsey and Mason successfully pivoted their career paths and what it was like to open a business during a pandemic.
How did you get started? What is your inspiration?
We were both working as craft cocktail bartenders before the pandemic and were furloughed as soon as everything shut down. Kelsey started experimenting with baking, making croissants and sourdough, and that eventually snowballed into making ice cream. We both had a good idea that bartending as we knew it wouldn’t be coming back for quite a while, so we decided to change paths.
We’ve taken inspiration from a multitude of places. The inspiration for our aesthetic was taken primarily from a trip to Europe that we took right before the pandemic. We had just come back from Paris before the quarantine, so the thought of beautifully designed patisseries and boulangeries was fresh in our mind. We knew that we wanted to emulate the feel of a French patisserie, while also paying homage to where we’re from. For flavor ideas, we often look to classic New Orleans’ desserts and things reminiscent of the sweets we ate from our childhood (i.e. pecan pie, bananas foster, creole cream cheese.)
What has it been like opening a business during the pandemic? Any challenges or setbacks faced?
This is our first business, so it’s hard to say how opening a business during a pandemic compares to during normal times. But it was hard. City Hall was closed so we couldn’t walk in and ask questions about permitting or fees or taxes. There was a lot of research and guesswork involved, and a lot of hoping that we were doing everything properly. It’s a serious feeling of accomplishment knowing that we’ve done all of this ourselves. Most businesses hire firms to figure out their permits, accountants to do taxes and bookkeeping, interior decorators to design the space. We couldn’t afford them, so it was a lot of learning by necessity.
It must have been a huge leap of faith to pivot from bartending to opening an ice cream parlor! Can you speak to this? Any commonalities between the two?
Building a flavor profile is the biggest similarity between bartending and ice cream. Whenever we create or think of flavor ideas, we think about it as though it were a cocktail. We do everything by taste: does it need to be sweeter, saltier, more acidic? How’s the mouthfeel? Is it too tart, does strawberry taste like fresh, ripe strawberries? Or is there just a hint of fruit?
Advice to young entrepreneurs and next generation?
Start with more money than you think you’ll need, give yourself more time than you anticipate, and be prepared to work (much) more than you’ll think you’ll have to. Don’t rely on just yourself- go over all your plans with friends, family, other business owners to make sure you’re on the right track. Be smart about everything. Some advice I (Kelsey) was given that really stuck with me was from an old boss who asked me how old I was (25 when we opened) and told me that I could fail five times and still come back from that. It wasn’t exactly feel good advice, but it was definitely true and got me thinking about the possibility of failure.
Favorite thing about living and working in NOLA?
We absolutely love how friendly and welcoming the neighborhood has been to us. And we can’t thank our regulars enough for sticking with us when we were still figuring everything out in the first couple months.
Are you hiring? Can you tell us what you typically look for in an employee and what makes a good employee?
We’re not currently hiring (it’s winter, so it’s our slowest time of the year), but we will be closer to March. We’ll look for people who take initiative in the day-to-day and those who genuinely want to grow with the company. Having a background in the service industry and knowing your way around a kitchen will be a plus.