The Silicon Review
“By sticking to traditional recipes and making our artisanal ice cream fresh, on-site, daily, we are already delivering what the public wants – more natural products, higher quality and excellent customer service at a friendly price-point.”
Ice cream is the perfect treat for any season. In summer, you can cool off with a delicious scoop of your favorite flavor of ice cream and in winter embrace the cold weather by enjoying your choice of ice cream with a warm slice of freshly baked pie. As America’s favorite treat, ice cream is always a great ‘go to’ option to share with friends and family. Indulging with a scoop of vanilla on any flavor of cake, or treating yourself to a luxurious mint chocolate chip scoop with a rich brownie, or making that stuffed crepe even better with a scoop of strawberry ice cream, or simply enjoying a classic waffle cone with chocolate ice cream—the possibilities are truly endless. In short, ice-cream is happiness condensed, and making ice cream is indeed an art.
In light of foregoing, we’re thrilled to present Fantastic Flavours Ice Cream Parlour.
Fantastic Flavours is an ice cream parlour which revitalized the Irish market with a difference. Founded by Irish-American Miceál O’Hurley and his partner, Ukrainian-born Oksana Shadrina, Fantastic Flavours not only serves more than 72-flavours of handmade artisan ice cream - they do it in a mid-century-style American ice cream parlour that echoes to the pride of tradition, artisan craft and customer service of yesteryear. Establishing an ice cream parlour in a country celebrated for its gastronomic renaissance required a lot of courage. And yet, this bold brand has gone from strength to strength on the back of numerous well-deserved food awards, reviewers’ accolades and consistently glowing guest testimonials.
Fantastic Flavours was founded in 2013 and is headquartered in County Cork, Ireland.
Miceál O’Hurley and Oksana Shadrina are husband and wife.
Miceál O’Hurley and Oksana Shadrina, Fantastic Flavours Ice Cream Parlour
Co-founders, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.
What was the reason behind the genesis of Fantastic Flavours Ice Cream Parlour? How did you expand your company and its offerings over the years, Oksana?
We had moved to Ireland and explored European culture. The economic collapse of 2007 saw Ireland’s banks nationalized by 2009. The economy ground to a halt. In 2013, building on my background as a corporate trainer and HR specialist for a Fortune 500 company and Miceál’s more than 30-year hobby of making ice cream, Fantastic Flavours was born with only $500. Initially, we offered only 14 flavours of ice cream, but as they quickly gained widespread popularity, Miceál began to use other recipes he had developed over the years. Today, Fantastic Flavours offers ‘More than 72 Flavours of Handmade, Artisan Ice Cream’ along with desserts, coffees, crepes, pizzas, and more.
What challenges did you face in your initial years, Miceál? What can your peers learn from it?
Most businesses fail because they are under-funded. After Ireland nationalized the banks, there was no lending for small businesses, so we had to build the company out of daily sales. This caused significant strain, endless stress and restrained our growth plans. In the end, it was our innovative recipes, the consistently high quality of our ice cream and outstanding customer service which brought customers to our door, and despite the challenges, saw us expand the recognition which positioned us for growth, returning to my roots in America. We have come ‘full circle’ as they say.
As for lessons learned? In my youth I served in the 82nd Airborne and 1st Ranger Battalion. I learned you couldn’t always fight the battle on the terrain you wanted but had to deal with what was before you. Business is no different – you have to develop a business plan that will allow you to succeed based on worst-case scenarios, with limited resources and the ‘terrain’ in which you find yourself. More importantly, you have to adapt to a fast-changing landscape and be prepared for the unexpected. Proper planning and meticulous execution is good leadership. Running a people-centered business, focusing on staff, colleagues and your customers, must always remain the highest priority.
Can you tell us about your products/services, in brief, Oksana?
‘More than 72 Flavours of Handmade, Artisan Ice Cream’ made fresh, on-site, daily. We offer freshly baked goods, a full range of coffees, crepes, and pizza with additional, seasonal food offerings as well.
How do you manage to cope-up with the ever-increasing demand of consumers, Miceál?
We stick to the basics. We start with real milk, cream and ingredients for flavorings and make our ice cream by hand, essentially relying on the same machines for pasteurizing and freezing—the way it was done 100 years ago. Over the years, ‘big brand’ ice cream chains have relied on mass production methods delivered at the cheapest cost, which resulted in their recipes and ingredients listed on the package looking more like a science project than a food product. Today’s consumers demand higher quality and healthier ingredients in their food. Ice cream is no exception. By sticking to the traditional recipes I have refined over the past 30-years and following artisanal ice cream making methods, we are already delivering what the public wants – more natural products, higher quality and excellent customer service at a friendly price-point.
Oksana, how do you safeguard your reputation for safety and quality?
In the beginning, we made a plan, and we worked the plan, which is simple – make great handmade, artisan ice cream fresh, on-site daily and serve it with a smile and attentive service. We re-commit ourselves to that daily. We also invest in training, re-training, and development of ourselves and our staff on an ongoing basis so that we never become too comfortable or begin to cut corners.
What kind of mixed responses have you received from your consumers over the years, Miceál?
We are fortunate that food critics, awards programs and more importantly, our customers have consistently rated us highly. We have enjoyed being No. 1 on TripAdvisor since our very first year with a 97-percent ‘Excellent or Very Good’ rating going on over seven-years. We attribute this to our focus on the basics and consistent quality and service with every customer we serve. When we do get criticism, we take it seriously and try to learn as much as we can from it so that at least we don’t make the same mistake twice. We can’t please everyone – no business can – but we are wholly dedicated to trying. Winning the Food Awards Ireland ‘Dessert Outlet of the Year’ (twice) and our many other awards doesn’t allow us to rest on our laurels. Recognition challenges us to maintain the highest standards each and every day.
Oksana, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
Attention to detail and doing the basics is everything. From selecting the right milk and cream to using the best coffee beans, and from shaping our tables with round ‘corners’ to protect little children from injuring their heads, to selecting the best chocolates and fruits for the ice cream flavorings, customers have come to expect a good experience. We treat our business like playing baseball – each ‘at-bat’ makes or breaks us. Customers also tell us that our décor and the whole experience brings back fond memories of ice cream parlours they knew in their youth and they can now build new memories with their own family and friends. It’s not only about good food and service – it’s about the experience. Miceál and I are also very proud of our record of philanthropy and volunteering which I know our customers truly appreciate. Businesses must be part of the fabric of the communities in which they serve.
Miceál, I understand you have exciting plans for expanding. Can you tell us about them?
The ‘old world’ value on craftsmanship and tradition we have explored over the past decade fused with our inherent American sense of entrepreneurship presents exciting opportunities. We have a saying: “Success is as much about perseverance as perfection, and origination far more than imitation.” Nobody is perfect – but the pursuit of perfection ensures we will always strive for high standards. And of course, origination is also crucial, so we are continually rolling out new products based on evolving customer needs.
We are truly excited about returning to our roots in America and opening Fantastic Flavours Ice Cream Parlour locations beginning this year in what we call our ‘20/20 Vision for the Future’ plan. It’s an exciting time and we look forward to opening our corporate locations and shortly being joined by select franchise partners who have the advantage of coming in early and having their choice of territories and locations.
Where do you see you and your company a couple of years from now, Oksana?
Establishing our corporate locations in the U.S.A. and creating franchise opportunities are our immediate priority. We are already looking to talented people to become franchise partners in our success. We’d like to see good regional market saturation within three years and significant national market penetration beginning in year four. But most of all, we want to ensure that wherever Fantastic Flavours Ice Cream Parlour opens its doors, we remain committed to the same customer-centered service and handmade, artisan ice cream that gained us worldwide attention from the wee shop we started in back in 2013 on the shores of the Celtic Sea in Ireland.