ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – It’s been open on South 18th Street in Lafayette Square for a little less than two years. Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery already has the demand to expand to four new locations by next summer – with even more possible locations in the near future.
The Clayton City Council this week approved a use permit for Clementine’s to open at 730 DeMun Avenue. Owner Tamara Keefe hopes to open the location by Memorial Day.
Next up is the city’s South Hampton (SoHa) neighborhood, in what’s currently a dilapidated building on Macklind. This location is expected by this fall. Next Spring, Maplewood should get a store, and next Summer Keefe signed a lease to open in Midtown’s new Foundry development.
“We’ve been ready for a year,” Keefe says. “We would have already had two more locations open if we could have found the right neighborhood, the right development and the right space.”
Finding the right neighborhood can be a challenge. It has to be somewhere that wants a small, independent business like Clementine’s, but also somewhere that’s affordable. Essentially, an affordable place with a good neighborhood vibe.
“We’re looking aggressively at West County, we’re looking in St. Charles, we’re looking in Ellisville, Ladue…it’s finding that great location with great indoor seating, you’ve got to have a great patio and great neighborhoods that support local independent businesses,” she says. “There are a few places we looked at in West County, but there wasn’t a lot of independence there, and that concerned me. We’re not a big chain, we’re very unique. We’re very niche. We have to make sure we’re going into a neighborhood that’s going to support us.”
“You have a lot of neighborhoods that are looking for big developers, I feel like sometimes the small independents like us have a hard time,” she says. “We’re not a high end restaurant, we don’t have average sales of $20 to $30 a ticket. So from a rent or lease perspective, we can’t afford $40 to $50 a square foot.”
Clementine’s is known as a “microcreamery.” Like a microbrewery, it refers to small batch production of the product. There are some rules to follow to get this designation. First, every ingredient has to be all natural. Second, the product has to have more than 16 percent butter fat.
“That’s what makes it really creamy and delicious, and that’s why the flavor stays with you for so long after you take a bite,” Keefe says. “Anything you’d find at any other place in St. Louis… is really around 10 to 12 percent.”
The ice cream also has to have less than 30 percent “overrun,” which refers to the amount of air in the final product. Keefe says her product is 26 to 28 percent, while grocery store ice creams have up to 100 percent overrun.
“You’re really only getting 50 percent ice cream [at the grocery store], the rest is just air,” she says.
Everything sold in the store is made at a 5,000 square foot facility in Ferguson that Keefe says could support 10 to 12 stores. So, expect more expansion in the future.