History: If it weren’t for basketball…
Interview with Benjamin Scholtz, Owner
Q: You are somewhat famous locally for having a unique approach to business. How did you get started with Mallard?
Ben: I grew up in Bellingham, and after graduating from Evergreen I was working in Seattle. It was increasingly crowded and crazy in the city then, especially for those who weren’t in the dot.com industry.
All of my work since college had been with non profit organizations. In Seattle I worked at the Seattle Art Museum and Act Theater, on the administrative side. After many years in those jobs, I found that, in all the various roles you can play bringing art to the public, I was drawn to be the maker. I felt business decisions should be closer to the aim of art.
When I moved home to Bellingham, I wanted to do something entrepreneurial. I thought I would have more leverage to pursue cultural missions in a for-profit setting. I started by working for businesses where I thought I could learn something.
Q: What led to you owning Mallard?
I always say, if it weren’t for basketball, I wouldn’t own Mallard. I met Mike, the original owner, while playing basketball in Fairhaven Park. Mike had worked at an ice cream shop in Boulder, Colorado, and he modeled Mallard Ice Cream on that first experience. He ran the shop for about three years and it wasn’t breaking even. The initial start up money was gone, and he was burnt out.
When I started working at Mallard, I was a young, 28 years old. I had some work experience in the Seattle non-profit arts sector, which had led me to feel there was an enormous gap between goals and methods of the work world and the qualities of life that, to me, have the most value. The impulse to work at Mallard, and later to buy it, was to have a vocation that lessened the gap between practice and meaningful experiences.
I bought the business in December 2001. It was good to start in the winter because it gave me the off season to get ready for the crowds. My first decision as owner was to stop making wholesale ice cream for grocery stores, and really commit to doing one thing well. By focusing on our retail production only, rather than struggling to expand into wholesale as Mike had been doing, we could focus on smaller production and high-end ingredients. The clarity of this commitment meant we could invest in the highest quality ingredients and work experiences.
Now, the premise of Mallard Ice Cream, and what we feel makes it special, is that ideally everything we do is infused with the qualities of life we seek to embody.