Everyone has a favorite flavor of Scoop the Magic. Matt Martinez, co-owner of Ziggy's vegan restaurant in San Luis Obispo, prefers mint chip and Mexican chocolate.
Rilyn Arries, co-owner of Gather Natural Market in Atascadero, says Goldenmilk and mint chip are a close tie. The bulk of her customers, however, give the edge to mint chip.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF SCOOP THE MAGIC
- SPICE IS NICE Customer favorite Goldenmilk jazzes up a creamy base of coconut, cashew, and maple syrup with, from left, ginger, black pepper, turmeric, and cinnamon.
Walter Lafky, co-owner of SLO-based Harvestly, which connects local food vendors with consumers, prefers vanilla EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), though Mexican chocolate tops client requests.
Morro Bay-based Avocado Shack sells out of pistachio, Mexican chocolate, and Goldenmilk. Owner Michael Wolfe's personal favorite is pistachio. "I think it's better than dairy ice cream," he said.
Erin Inglish, owner of Caliwala organic grocery store in Santa Margarita, said, "I have not tried a flavor I didn't love. The product truly lives up to its name. We are so fortunate to be able to Scoop the Magic! We sell so much of [it] at Caliwala, we can barely keep it in stock."
Besides being Scoop the Magic clients, the above businesses also share a common history and motto. They opened just before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they all are riding SLO County's farm-to-table wave.
German-born Uli Billington is a familiar face as well as a poster child for the buy-local movement. Her frozen dessert business has exploded from a few appearances at area farmers' markets in 2019, to an upcoming expansion and relocation from San Luis Obispo to Paso Robles.
Raised in the town of Remseck, Germany, just outside Stuttgart, Billington always knew she wanted to run her own business. And in her dreams it was in California.
Her parents—one a CFO for more than 30 years and the other a CEO of several organizations—instilled in her an entrepreneurial spirit that kicked off in 2000 with a three-year apprenticeship in hospitality management at the Maritim Hotel Stuttgart and Hotel Management School in Bad Überkingen.
- PHOTO BY CHERISH WHYTE
- COOL TREATS Uli Billington debuted her nondairy frozen dessert at the farmer’s market in downtown SLO on July 8.
Afterward she received a bachelor-equivalent degree in event management and planning from Event Academy Baden-Baden.
When not studying, Billington held positions at Maritim Hotel Stuttgart; Pernod Ricard Germany; then at a distributor for Lezyne, a U.S.-based manufacturer of bicycle accessories. Billington's Lezyne association provided a crucial link for her future dreams. It was based here in San Luis Obispo.
Billington was eventually promoted to director of global sales and marketing, and relocated to San Luis Obispo. (Lezyne maintains a SLO office but is now headquartered in Reno.)
In 2016 Billington re-imagined her priorities. Her daughter, Isabel, was born, then she left Lezyne, ostensibly for part-time work. But Billington is not one to sit around.
"I know it's confusing with all that I do," she said, "and I really love doing all these different things, but my focus is on Scoop the Magic. This is my very own 'baby'—something that I am creating and building up myself, for me and my family."
- PHOTO COURTESY OF SCOOP THE MAGIC
- NO. 1 FAN Uli Billington’s daughter, Isabel, 4, enjoys her favorite Scoop the Magic flavor, vanilla EVOO (extra virgin olive oil).
Scoop the Magic fell into Billington's lap by chance. While working at the Women's Business Center, her mentor and fellow consultant, Lorelei Sibet, introduced her to clients looking to sell their small dairy-free ice cream business called Kari and Sherri's.
Something "sparked inside of me," Billington said. "Ice cream is a product that makes people happy. And I just love making food and seeing a smile on people's faces when they eat something I create."
She took the plunge, purchasing the original recipe and equipment, then rebranding to Scoop the Magic. At her production facility in San Luis Obispo, she refined the flavors, currently supplying local food vendors, restaurants and SLO's Thursday night farmers' market crowd with selections from her eight original creations—Goldenmilk, maple walnut raisin, Mexican chocolate, mint chip, peanut butter chocolate, pistachio, raspberry, and vanilla EVOO.
"What brings me the greatest joy is actually delivering my product to my customers and connecting with [them]" she said. "When I hear, 'Thank you for doing this,' that just warms my heart, and I know I am doing something right.
"So many have food sensitivities—50 percent or more are intolerant to dairy, and by creating an ice-cream-like product with clean, organic ingredients ... they can treat themselves almost guilt-free."
She jokingly added: "I'm not making any health claims here—everything in balance."
Billington constantly tinkers with flavors and is also motivated to find health solutions for customers. For instance, she explained, "I had a client who couldn't have cashews. That's how I created the flavor maple walnut raisin. Or another client couldn't eat tree nuts, so I created peanut butter chocolate."
Friend April Bodine, whose Dough Connection stand was set up adjacent to Billington's at SLO's farmers' market on July 8, said, "I have been making my way through all the Scoop the Magic flavors, and my top two favorites are Goldenmilk and vanilla EVOO.
"Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm not a 'vanilla' person. The crazier the better, but this vanilla is anything but just vanilla. It is flavorful, smooth, and creamy. The Goldenmilk has just the right amount of spices and still magically retains that smooth, creamy texture in ice cream we all love.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF SCOOP THE MAGIC
- GREEN INSIDE AND OUT Scoop the Magic is packaged in eco-friendly, compostable kraft paper cups.
"I don't usually eat vegan, organic, and plant-based products," Bodine added, "but without knowing these qualities in Scoop the Magic ice cream you wouldn't even be able to guess you were eating a healthier version."
Bodine's business provides safe-to-eat cookie batter treats, and, she said, her company will start carrying Billington's frozen desserts in her new brick-and-mortar, opening soon in Morro Bay.
You can also find Scoop the Magic in Ziggy's vegan shakes. Co-owner Martinez said Billington "worked with us to create exclusive products and packaging just for our restaurant, which enabled us to realize our vision of bringing vegan milkshakes to the public."
Billington even customizes labels for customers' special events. Her connection to community and customers is the core of her business model.
"My customers like Caliwala, Gather, and Avocado Shack sell local products, and I believe [Scoop the Magic] does really well for them. I love connecting with the local community. Everyone is so supportive of locally made products. I really want to keep it that way. From Day One ... other vendors have welcomed me with open arms and minds, and I gained great friendships. I want to continue working with other small business owners and supporting them in their journey," she said.
What can we expect from Billington in the future? Stay tuned for the grand opening of her Paso Robles location, with the ability to double her current output. She will also be hiring. The new facility will include a scoop shop and retail area.
New flavors on the horizon include lemon charcoal, piña colada, coffee chip, rocky road, chocolate sea salt, peach vanilla, passion fruit, and chocolate chip. Δ
Flavor Writer Cherish Whyte is intrigued by the upcoming lemon charcoal flavor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.