Here at Cottage Life, we realize how hard the COVID-19 pandemic has hit local businesses. To do our part, we’ll be highlighting the stories of different businesses in cottage country. This week, we spoke with Sydney and Chloe Carron, two sisters who run Bar32 out of Port Carling, Ont.
What is Bar32?
Chloe: Bar32 makes artisanal ice cream bars that are free of all preservatives. We try to use organic ingredients wherever possible, and we rotate the different flavours that we sell, so every week there’s something new for customers to try. We also always try to include a dairy-free and vegan option to make sure that our product range is as inclusive as possible.
We have a pop-up in Port Carling across from Field of Greens. We use a vintage horse trailer that we converted into a mobile ice cream bar. But we also do dockside delivery on Lake Muskoka as well.
How did the business get started?
Sydney: Our grandparents used to own a restaurant in Toronto called Chow, and when they closed it—around 30 years ago—one of the pieces of equipment that they kept was an ice cream machine. As kids, we would go to our grandparent’s house, and our grandmother would always make this really delicious ice cream for dessert. A few years ago, they passed the machine on to us.
During the pandemic, we were looking for fun things to do to keep busy, and we thought that pulling out the machine might be a good idea. Neither of us had ever really made ice cream before, so we started experimenting with different flavours. We noticed that bars had been really popular, so we bought a mold online and tested it out.
We bought one mold, so we made about four. It turned out really great, and it tasted awesome. I knew that jobs would be limited this summer because of the pandemic, and I didn’t have anything set up for coming back from school.
Chloe: I think that we made the first batch in May of 2020, a month or two into the pandemic. But it wasn’t until this summer that it turned into a real business idea.
I thought it was a great idea. I have a full-time job, but I really encouraged her to do it. I’m also finishing up business school, so I thought I could help with some of the budgeting and operations. Sydney’s worked in a retail store in Toronto for a few years now and is really great at customer service, especially with kids. So, within a matter of weeks, it all came together.
What inspired the name?
Sydney: It took a while to come up with the name. It was something I was a little stuck on. I reached out to a lot of people for suggestions because I was really interested in having “bar” in the name. I tried experimenting with different things, but it was my mom who suggested Bar32, because she did some research and it turned out that 32 degrees Fahrenheit is the freezing point of ice cream. So, it’s kind of stuck.
How do you make the ice cream?
Sydney: It’s a long process. The first thing we do is make the ice cream mix, so the liquid, which then has to cool for about eight to 10 hours in the fridge. Then we put that mix through the ice cream machine and pour it into the molds. Then we put the molds into the freezer. Once they’re completely frozen, we melt the chocolate, dip the ice cream in it, and then add some decor. Then we put them back into the freezer and then package them and they’re ready to go.
What are your most popular products?
Chloe: To give you a better idea of the bar, it’s very similar to a Häagen-Dazs bars or a Magnum bar that you buy. They’re all individually packaged and dipped in chocolate on a stick. The salted caramel has definitely been the best seller so far for us. People tell us it’s super addictive and repeat customers are always coming back for this flavour. We also just launched a white chocolate raspberry flavour, which customers seem to really be enjoying.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
Chloe: We’ve found that people are now more cautious about who is preparing their food and what goes into it. So, we make sure that every step of the production and selling process is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
We also think that people have gone a little stir crazy with restaurants and attractions being closed for so long, so we wanted to create a fun space for people to bring their kids and enjoy the outdoors and have that as a destination to go to. So, when people are stuck inside, even if it’s raining, they can say, ‘Well, why don’t we just go grab some ice cream bars to take home for dessert.’
What does the future look like for Bar32?
Sydney: We both are currently in school at the University of British Columbia. So, during the school year, we probably won’t be running the business. But I am hoping to continue it next summer and introduce more flavours and, hopefully, find a permanent location more central to Port Carling, while keeping our mobile trailer for pop-ups and special events.
Hopefully, Chloe can take on a more permanent partnership role versus just helping out. And we’re hoping to do a subscription model where every week customers could get notifications about new flavours, which would help create some excitement for the weekend.
How can people buy your ice cream?
Chloe: To spread the word about the business, back in May, we started going by boat and handing out these little flyers on Lake Muskoka.
While we were doing that, we realized there was a lot of demand for delivery. So, now we offer delivery by boat. People tend to DM us on Instagram, asking what the flavours are and if they could buy some bars. Then we get the whole package ready, we bring the little box, and we drop it off at their cottage. They just meet us on the dock.
People can also order through our website where they can see what flavours there are and then buy a box by entering their address and we’ll drop it off.
Sydney: We also have our converted vintage horse trailer. The artwork on the outside of the trailer was done by Tammy Seybold, a family friend who is an artist in Vancouver. It’s open Friday to Sunday and is mobile but we’re currently at a permanent location near the old Tim Horton’s.
Do you have a local business in cottage country? Fill out this survey for your chance to be featured.