11 Dec Cheers to 10 Years, Humphry Slocombe!
Ten years after Humphry Slocombe co-founders Jake Godby and Sean Vahey opened their first ice cream shop on Harrison Street in San Francisco, they’re still scooping with all the badass intention they had in 2008 (and more). Since then, they’ve disrupted the taste buds of ice cream addicts with flavors that are a lot rebellious and a little risqué.
I sat down with Jake and Sean to chat about their journey through the frozen universe. The past decade has ignited a flurry of emotions from Jake being unsure of whether ten years feels like it’s gone by quickly or if it feels like 100 years to Sean summarizing the time in three words: disbelief, OMG, and WTF.
Since forming their friendship in 2003, the dynamic pair has grown in ways many business partners and friends can only dream of. When talking with the duo, it’s obvious their success can be attributed to their friendship as they chuckle and reminisce on their time together.
So where does the inspiration for such an ice cream shop come from? Jake simply wasn’t cut out for a life in restaurants. “I wanted to do one thing and I wanted to do it right,” manifesting his drive throughout the years, especially in the beginning when fighting to give up daily was the norm. Sean expressed similar sentiments, and his ambition shone brightly in his innocent dreams for the shop. “I thought we would do this for the rest of our lives: make ice cream and serve it, but it didn’t turn out that way. We got busy.” Sean wasn’t wrong, but neither anticipated the boom the company would experience. Now, they’re staying busy with three more locations, nationwide delivery through Amazon and Goldbelly, and grocery store offerings in Whole Foods, Safeway, and more.
Many people think working with ice cream is a dream. For the most part, it is. They say the best part about working with ice cream is eating it – surprise, surprise. But their previous professions could not have prepared them for what was to come. Sean was a restaurant manager at both the Hyatt and the Four Seasons, and initially, Humphry Slocombe was a horrifying (Sean’s word, not mine) experience that forced him to learn a lot. “When we first started, it was like why are we doing this? The bar around the corner got us through a lot of bad times,” admits Sean. For Jake, the whole process has been humbling. He salutes his naivete ten years ago for giving him the courage to take the leap because once he reached a certain point, there was no turning back.
Regardless of the hardships they face, Humphry Slocombe is the opportunity of a lifetime. Jake, the mad scientist behind your favorite flavors, loves to chat about his job with willing listeners and welcomes the challenges of new partnerships that compel him to think outside of his comfort zone. Sean simply appreciates the little things: not being confined to an office and being creative. As the public relations and marketing lead, Sean is the mastermind behind the story of the unforgettable brand.
Of course, I had to ask Jake and Sean some Humphry-Slocombe-specific questions.
How do you come up with these flavors?
Jake: It’s my only job. I just do what the voices tell me.
Sean: He used to say “the voices in the sink.” I think all of us are motivated by pop culture and by seasons. We put a lot in front of Jake, and we love to see what comes out.
What’s the craziest flavor you’ve ever made?
Jake: “Crazy” is a word I don’t like to use – they all make sense. Everything should be enjoyable.
Sean: The most controversial is Foie Gras. The best is Secret Breakfast.
What is the worst flavor you’ve ever made?
Sean: Jake is able to work all these flavors out in his mind, and if something didn’t turn out great, we would never serve it.
Jake: They actually never become ice cream.
What is your all-time favorite flavor?
Jake: Kumquat Poppyseed.
Sean: Brown Butter. I always look forward to Brown Butter every year.
Even with a library of accomplishments, it was easy for the duo to select their proudest moments. Sean beams with pride when he thinks about their first Broadway partnership with Matilda. Jake speaks proudly of the moment he ran into Elisabeth Prueitt, owner of Tartine, when “she told me she tried to go to the shop, but the line was too long.” It’s moments like these that hopes to grow nationwide, particularly on the east coast where Sean grew up, become more promising.
When asked to name their biggest accomplishment, both decided that staying open for ten years is a feat in itself, and rightfully so – 70% of businesses fail in their first ten years. And in Humphry Slocombe fashion, they also admitted that not killing each other is pretty monumental. Reflecting on the past decade, Jake and Sean still aim to bring to life the goals they’ve had since day one. “A lot of ice cream places tend to be cute, and we kind of go in the opposite direction. We’re a little bit gritty,” Jake reports. Sean confirms. “ We don’t want to be cute. We never want to be cute.”
Celebrate with us!
A 10th birthday at Humphry Slocombe wouldn’t be complete without a party, and not just any party. We’ll be hosting an outrageously fabulous birthday bash with drag queens, prizes, and free scoops on Friday, December 28 from 12 PM to 12 AM at our SF Mission shop and from 1 PM to 12 AM at our Venice Beach shop. Don’t forget to try our take on a Charcuterie Board, featuring mini scoops of five classic flavors.