Food & Drink

Coolhaus’ Pride Pint Tells the Brand’s Origin Story in a Delicious Way

“Being Millennials, being women, and definitely being gay women, we didn’t feel represented.”

Coolhaus Natasha Case
Natasha Case, co-founder of Coolhaus | Photo: Coolhaus; Illustration: Maitane Romagosa/Thrillist
Natasha Case, co-founder of Coolhaus | Photo: Coolhaus; Illustration: Maitane Romagosa/Thrillist

One bite of Coolhaus, and you’ll be sold. It’s not hard to be with ice cream sandwiches you’d never know were dairy-free and a truly insane flavor that has actual french fries swirled through silky vanilla ice cream. But the brand, started by married couple Natasha Case and Freya Estreller, has so much more to love beyond its delicious ice cream.

The pair started Coolhaus because they didn’t feel represented in the products currently lining freezer shelves and wanted to see scoops made by people who supported the same causes they did. Eleven years later, small emblems on the packaging depict what the brand is all about: empowering women, protecting animals, and using the finest ingredients they can get their hands on. Its newest flavor brings forward another value and tells the story of how two women broke into the ice cream industry to provide representation for LGBTQ businesses -- just in time to celebrate Pride month.

I sat down with co-founder Natasha Case to talk about the gooey rainbow-colored marshmallow swirls in the newest flavor, EmpowerMINT For All, and the charitable organizations that are supported with every purchase. She’s celebrating Pride all year long despite the ongoing pandemic by eating a few scoops and supporting LGBTQ organizations, and you should, too. You’ll feel even better scraping the bottom of a pint when you learn more about how Case and her family created a brand they could whole-heartedly stand behind, so grab a pint and a spoon, and dive in:

So what exactly is the EnjoyMINT For All flavor, and can you tell me more about the process of developing it?
The flavor is a peppermint ice cream with chocolate cookies and a colorful marshmallow swirl. We picked out the exact Pantone color that we wanted for the purple marshmallow swirl so we are definitely bringing the largely expected colorful element to the ice cream. My son calls it the rainbow ice cream without me even telling him to call it that!

We decided to make the flavor dairy-free because that felt more inclusive and we didn’t want someone who can’t eat dairy to be unable to participate in our Pride celebration. By the way, I think our dairy-free ice cream holds up for anyone whether you’re vegan or a dairy-lover. The quality is definitely not compromised.

And we also made a soda float kit with EnjoyMINT For All pints that looks really cool. Pride parades may be canceled or put on hold so you won’t be able to see a float in a parade, but with the kit you can have a float at home. So that has been a really great way to get the word out about this flavor as well.

Coolhaus EnjoyMINT For All
Photo: Coolhaus; Illustration: Maitane Romagosa/Thrillist

How long will it be available?
It will be available basically all through the summer until it sells out, but we are hoping to transition this to our longterm lineup. Pride should be celebrated all the time, so we may alter some of the packaging, but our hope is to bring it to the mainstream market after this particular production run. It’s really never out of style so if you’re still supporting a pride mission in July and August, which you absolutely should, you can still get this flavor.

And I know there’s also a charitable component here. What other organizations are involved?
We are working with an amazing grocery partner to get this on shelves: National Co-Op Grocers, which is pretty much the organization behind any local co-op you may shop at. If you’re like me, you know that co-op stores are always special and there’s just a different feeling about them. The co-op buyer team is also very invested in the vision beyond just a marketing plan. They want to know what it means to be working with our brand, what we are doing for sustainability, how we are sourcing things, and they are just so into what their brands stand for, so it was really cool to specifically partner with them for Pride. One of the head buyers that we work with there is also a part of the LGBTQ community so that was really cool.

Our shop is not open for guests right now but is doing a lot of business on Postmates and Uber Eats, and when you order the EnjoyMINT For All pint, all of the sales from that are going to go directly to The Okra Project which is an amazing organization that supports Black transgender people by providing homecooked, healthy meals. I’m so happy we have this really cool charitable and social mission component with actual dollars being raised for that organization.

That’s awesome! Have you ever done a flavor for Pride month before?
This will be the first one. We have done very small things at our scoop shop like colorful toppings and things like that, but this is by far the biggest step for us to really put it front and center. More and more companies and brands have gotten behind pride which is exciting, but for us, it’s a story we can really own because we are LGBTQ-founded and -led. It all started with me and Freya starting our relationship, so this is such a great, personal way to tell our story through this yummy flavor. This is really about telling our story and giving it a much broader reach than we have ever done before, and I’m really proud of it.

So what made you want to put one out this year?
I think it’s been past time. Yes, we’ve made progress in the community with more recognition, marriage legalization, and there was a huge victory in the Supreme Court recently. And in some ways I look at this and say, “Wow, we’re still just passing bills to have basic protection at work?” I always have a dual reaction. It was the same thing when gay marriage became legal nationwide. On one side, I feel excited, but on the other, I think, “that’s as far as we’ve gotten?” But I think it’s just something that needs to be front and center because there are so many folks in the community who are being discriminated against.

This year has been such an important time in the Black LGBTQ community as well. Obviously we didn’t know about the major moments that were coming our way. The dialogue is even more front and center right now than we ever could have hoped, but all of this dialogue just shows how long overdue this is. This is nothing new that is happening. There is just more awareness and there are hopefully more major major changes coming. So we just thought that this needs to happen now.

I know you said earlier that this flavor is a way for you to tell your story in a really personal way, so can you tell me a little more about why you wanted to start Coolhaus?
I didn’t grow up with brands that I knew anything about in terms of their mission or origin or what they stood for, and the whole grocery experience felt very impersonal. I think the ‘90s was the height of that grocery experience because decades ago, we were shopping at smaller stores that were more neighborhood driven, and then it became way more about the mass superstore. For my generation, and even more so for the next, we really just wanted to buy something that we could relate to that stood for the things that we did and that we could connect with on a personal level. The timing of when we opened in 2009 meant that so many things were happening concurrently. Social media was opening the curtain so we could see who brands are from the makers to the founders and learn more about what they are about, and we had a more knowledgeable consumer that was demanding to know what is in their products and why.

So we thought, why shouldn’t it be us to make the change that we believe in? If we want a product that we can love, let’s make it. Being Millennials, being women, and definitely being gay women, we didn’t feel represented. There was no brand even close to being able to own that origin and tell that story, so I think that was a huge reason we wanted to start Coolhaus. And as far as product quality, you didn’t see it the way we now expect premium, artisan, plant-based food. There was a very limited selection and way less that spoke to high-quality ingredients and unique flavors.

Did you face any challenges in starting your business either as Millennials, women, or members of the LGBTQ community?
I felt very aware of being discriminated against or written off for just being young entrepreneurs, but now looking back, I also see that a lot of that was gender-based. People were like, “oh these girls want to make this ice cream,” but that doesn’t sound like that’s someone you’re really respecting as a leader and an authority when you say “these girls.” We were not necessarily coming into meetings saying that we were a couple. I think at the time we felt that it was a distraction or that maybe we were dealing with someone who wouldn’t accept that, but now I know I wouldn’t want to be in business with someone who didn’t accept us anyway.

Thanks for speaking with me! Happy Pride!

You can find the EnjoyMINT For All pint at these local retailers, order online for shipping across the country, or order pickup and delivery from Coolhaus’ Culver City scoop shop on Postmates, Uber Eats, and Caviar.

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Liz Provencher is an editorial assistant at Thrillist. You follow her on Twitter or see what she eats on Instagram.