The story of MDI (Mount Desert Island) Ice Cream isn’t atypical for a small business owner –
I was working for a software company as a web and multimedia developer** but desired to work for myself, make my own rules, decide my own hours (a lie all small business owners tell themselves is that they are going to “make their own hours.”)
From a young age, I always recognized two constants: a desire to work for myself, and the recognition that the only dessert that ever mattered was ice cream. With that in mind, Mount Desert Island Ice Cream was founded in 2005 with not much of a vision except to make ice cream.
That first year the goal was to fill a void by making flavors not seen in ice cream shops or on the shelves at the supermarket. In fact, my first big obsession was making Nutella - it needed to be done! I also spent time trying to perfect the classics. You couldn’t find a chocolate in the supermarket at that time that was actually made with real chocolate instead of cocoa powder (nor now for the most part.)
I wasn’t aware of the word “artisanal” as it wasn’t quite a movement yet, but I set out to make ice cream with real ingredients in small batches. Not out of nobility really, but because I didn’t know any other way.
That first year I only sold to farmer’s markets and restaurants while learning to hone the craft. The goal was to eventually expand wholesale sales all over the state of Maine and beyond. However, along the way in early 2006, I went against my original plan and signed a lease for a retail space at 7 Firefly Lane in Bar Harbor. I didn’t ever think I wanted a shop, particularly as I had never worked in the retail environment, and I had no idea what I was doing, I mean zero idea! It all worked out though (a good case for taking the leap as usually things turn out in the end!)
The following year I opened a second shop nearby at 325 Main Street on the outskirts of town in Bar Harbor. I needed a bigger production space and help with prep, the intention of the second space is that it would be a slow, quiet shop where the employees would work on prep. It would also be a place where chefs could pop by for tastings and discuss ideas. Much to my surprise, the shop became a very busy little spot not long after it was opened.
In 2010, I decided to expand to Portland, as a fantastic spot opened up that was just calling out for an ice cream shop at 51 Exchange Street! I applied for (and received) an America’s Recovery Capital (ARC) Loan that was used in the opening of the store.
Shortly after, I heard that President Obama was planning a visit to Mount Desert Island. Upon hearing this, I took the opportunity to pen a letter to Congresswoman Chelie Pingree, who was hosting his visit. Since I had received an ARC loan to open a shop and create jobs, it seemed only natural that he and the family should stop by since MDIIC was a beneficiary of the program he spearheaded! Later that July, President Obama and his family visited our 325 Main Street shop in Bar Harbor. He ordered Toasted Coconut, just in case you were wondering!
Through the years, I have decided that I’m not satisfied having a company that just sells a widget, analyzes the bottom line, then makes decisions from that standpoint. I want my company to be much more than that.
MDIIC tries to be as environmentally conscious as possible by using responsible ingredients, responsible packaging and recycling just about everything we can. Through the years, MDIIC has increasingly bought local as much as possible. I have continued to try to create as many good jobs as possible, pay as well as I can, create a good environment to work, and just try to be as decent of an owner as I can be.
– Linda Parker, Owner
** Shout out to Moldflow Corporation, (now Autodesk) in the Boston area. I was employed as a Web and Multimedia Developer for the most fantastic company with the greatest people, whose influence dictated much of the way I run my company.