Six years after starting her small-batch ice cream company in D.C., Ruby Scoops owner Rabia Kamara finally opened her first standalone store a couple hours south of the city, in Richmond, Virginia.
In late November, Ruby Scoops opened the doors to a new shop in the city’s North Side neighborhood (120 W. Brookland Park Boulevard) that sells sorbet, sherbet, and ice cream with inventive flavor combinations like sweet corn and Old Bay caramel or satsuma mandarin and passionfruit creamsicle. On a recent visit, a line stretched down the sidewalk outside the building as socially distanced groups awaited cups, cones, shakes, and floats while watching a parade of smiling customers walk out.
Ruby Scoops will open for weekends only for the winter, from 1 p.m. to 7 p..m. on Friday and Saturday with a 5 p.m. closing on Sundays. Follow Ruby Scoops online @rubyscoopsic for current flavors and other scoops.
Nostalgia guides Kamara as she creates flavors like her Pastelito, a Caribbean-style combo of cream cheese ice cream with a guava swirl inspired by the melting pot of Silver Spring, Maryland, where she grew up. She often teases incoming flavors on the shop’s Instagram page.
Kamara, who studied at L’Académie de Cuisine in Maryland, launched Ruby Scoops out of Union Kitchen after noticing a lack of high-quality desserts in flavors she craved. In the years that followed, Ruby Scoops became a fixture at farmers markets and events like the Broccoli City Festival, the National Cannabis Festival, and the D.C. outpost of weekly food festival Smorgasburg. When hit Burmese restaurant Thamee opened on H Street NE, Kamara was in the kitchen making tamarind-saffron ice cream for dessert.
“I fell in love with making ice cream because it was a blank slate,” Kamara says, “And I was reminded of all the fond memories I have from my childhood that have ice cream in them. I knew I wanted to be a part of people’s ice cream memories.”
In 2019, after five successful years of business, Kamara says she was feeling disconnected from the business she built. She was ready to give it all up, she says, “but as soon as I was done, all these opportunities started coming my way, which made me realize that I could be done with one version of what Ruby Scoops was and I could create something that felt more like what I wanted.”
The entrepreneur brought on chef Emmett Wright as a business partner shortly after the two met at a Pineapple Collaborative panel of women-owned ice cream businesses. They forged an instant connection after sampling each others’ ice creams, so they decided to go into business together and began looking for a space.
A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Kamara says the city’s accessibly priced real estate market and encouraging attitude toward small, Black-owned businesses drew her back. After a bumpy year of disappointment, chasing a Richmond space that wasn’t meant to be, Kamara and Wright eventually found the storefront on Brookland Park Boulevard and got to work. A Kickstarter brought in $30,000 to help the duo bring their dream to life.
While Wright spends most of his time focusing on production, Kamara is the face and personality of the business. A portrait of Kamara with an effervescent smile decorates one wall. When she shared a photo of a child posing with the mural on Instagram, Kamara wrote, “Ruby Scoops exists for several reasons, and one is to show all the black and brown babies in this country that they can be what and whoever they want.”