Last year, when driving through the Short North, I noticed a mysterious, dark lit store. I wasn’t sure what it was until I started seeing pictures all over Instagram of people standing in front of a “lick it real good” neon sign with ice cream in their hands. I instantly wanted to check it out. What I found was a trendy ice cream shop unlike anything else in Columbus – which is why I was so eager to talk to the owners of CRMD, Ben and Christina, for a business spotlight.
Ben and Christina previously lived in LA and were inspired by its diverse food scene, so much so that they wanted to bring a scoop of it back to Columbus. Their journey hasn’t been easy, but it’s inspirational to hear how they have been successful in creating their first business with the cards seemingly stacked against them. We definitely recommend trying some of their delicious ice creams and supporting this local grown business during these tough times!
C/B: I’m Christina and I’m from Cleveland, Ohio, and I’m Ben and I’m from Cleveland, Ohio as well.
C: We were actually born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but then we moved to Los Angeles because he was in the military and we fell love with the food scene out there immediately because everything is so different, diverse, and we wanted to do something a little different as well when we came back to Cleveland.
B: It was basically us taking everything from traveling all over the world. I lived in Japan for two years, then we went to Vietnam, China, South Korea – we took little pieces from every place we visited. In L.A., everything’s kind of like black and white and that’s the vibe out there. So we wanted to incorporate all of those little pieces into something we could make ourselves.
C: Everyone loves ice cream! Out on the West Coast, there’s people already changing the concept of ice cream. Out here, though, it’s all mom and pop shops and they’re all playing talk show radio and it’s kind of old school. We wanted to bring that flair back here since it wasn’t here yet. We saw a market for it so we jumped on and here we are now.
C: It was a rough start when we first started. We didn’t have any help from investors or anything so we literally sold two cars and our house to bring it all together. It hasn’t been easy. We’ve gone through so many hiccups like you wouldn’t believe. The first week living here we got t-boned, and we’re like, here we go. But it’s been an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.
B: Yeah, it’s been definitely pretty crazy. Two weeks before we were supposed to open we got T-boned and totaled our car. And then all of our signage got denied when we submitted it, but we needed something up so we put it up temporarily. The city put code enforcement notices on our door and told us they were going to give us 180 days in jail and a thousand dollar fine if we didn’t take the ice cream cone logo down. They said it’s too white and vibrant and distracting. But we had to have some sort of signage – people were already having trouble finding us.
That’s been a headache on its own. And actually a week before Christmas, we got robbed. Christina was the only one working, and she was robbed at gunpoint. She called the cops, but the cops couldn’t find us because we had no signage. So it’s a big circle with that whole situation. The city doesn’t allow us to have a sign, and then when something happens, they can’t find us. We’ve pretty much dealt with everything already in the short six months that we’ve been open and we’re learning. This next year should be a lot better.
C: All of the businesses across the street and next door have been so supportive. When they found out we got robbed all of them came here and were like “oh my God, where is he? where did he go?” and they tried to run to find him. Everyone around this block is amazing and so supportive.
C: We want to bring that shock factor because we feel like a lot of ice cream places around Ohio are family-friendly oriented or have an old school vibe. We wanted to be modern, different, poppy – we want people to question why this is an ice cream shop. We’ve had people come in and be like “so this isn’t clothing?” or “so this isn’t an adult store?” because of our neon sign, or they think it’s a tattoo studio or something.
B: In the summer we propped the door open and people walking by could smell the puffles. That is more welcoming to them when they can’t see in, because people can get kind of skittish to come in. But once they come in and we greet them and go over the whole process of how the colors are different and they try it, they usually really like it and come back.
C: But we got a lot of backlash when we first opened. A lot of people didn’t like us because of the fact that we’re something that they’re not used to, like Jeni’s or Graeters. When people first came in they were like, oh this is too much, this is vulgar, this is not family-friendly. We have had lots of people come in and yell at us and ask us “what are you thinking? Why would you open this in the Short North?” At that point we just tell them that we’re trying to be different. We’re just trying to push the boundaries more and more for people to be uncomfortable and to explore different things.
C: It’s just me. I designed everything in here. We cut it through vinyl and then Ben installed it. But, yeah, it’s just me. I run the Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. We’re trying our best to make it so I can still sleep.
C: A lot. It’s the only thing we did. When we first opened all we did was reach out to a bunch of bloggers in Columbus to say, hey, listen, we’re gonna be opening this ice cream shop in a week and you guys are welcome to come in. Free ice cream, free food, free drinks, private party, all we ask is that you take a picture and spread the word before we open – and it spread like wildfire.
All we wanted to do is create a buzz, so once we opened, we also did a giveaway for t-shirts with the first 80 customers getting a free shirt with their purchase. There was a line down the street. We were not expecting it at all. It’s been working out pretty well for us, and like I said we wanted to push boundaries to make people see ice cream differently from the mom and pop shops.
C: I remember growing up and no one ate ice cream in the cold, but now it’s a huge thing. Now, over in South Korea or Vietnam and China, everyone’s eating ice cream no matter how cold it is. We’re slowly seeing the fluctuation come this way because everything that you see on Instagram now is all people taking pictures of food and food bloggers. I literally have friends in Los Angeles who make six figures just going around taking pictures of food. That’s slowly making its way over to the East Coast. I think for us to snatch it right before it blows up is the best way for us to do it.
C: Honestly, in the six months we’ve been open we’ve grown a crazy amount. So I don’t even know. We have a lot of things in the works, a second location and things like that. But we’re just taking it step by step right now.
B: It’s a learning process for us because this is our first store. Neither of us had any experience in the industry, besides working as a busboy or whatever, but we’re learning day by day what you do differently. We’re really trying to do something completely different.
C: Short North Coffee House is awesome, they’re really good people. They’re always there for us. Working 14 hours a day, we haven’t had that much time to explore. Everyone around here is awesome and supportive.
B: We’ve partnered with Prime Social, they’ve been super awesome and it’s cool to see a food brand partner with the music scene. We’re close to Skully’s so there’s a lot of shows there, and with us being open till 2:00 a.m we get that crowd in a lot.
C: Honestly, I wish that we could relax. We had a week off and we were still in here and answering emails and answering phone calls. It feels weird not being here and helping out. I come in all the time. But honestly, this is all that we have. Everything that we had we put into it, so it’s weird not being here and when we’re not working, we are working.
B: To go for it, just go for it. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. We went to probably 10, 15 banks that turned us down but we just kept going. It sucks, but honestly, I wouldn’t trade it.
C: There’s so many people who are going to tell you no or doubt you. We didn’t even tell our family when we were opening just because they’re so “you need to go to school and do this and do that. My mom was like “why would you have black vanilla ice cream?” That’s just how we are. We want to be different. And it’s taken off. So when someone tells you no, do your own thing and keep doing it.