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Our Flavor Temptress

Tamara Keefe, CEO and self-proclaimed ‘Flavor Temptress’ of St. Louis based Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery®, has always had a deep passion for not only ice cream itself, but also what ice cream represents, especially in the context of her own life. Her journey from a girl born into a poor family, growing up on the beaches of southern California to self-made ice cream entrepreneur is animated throughout by the “moments of connection,” in her words, that ice cream can facilitate.

As a young girl, Tamara’s family remained relatively isolated from the other families that lived around them. After church on Sundays, when other families would go out for ice cream, her family remained conspicuously absent from such gatherings. This would all change, however, after Tamara’s mother purchased a simple, hand-crank ice cream machine at a garage sale for a mere $2. A small investment, to be sure, but one that would prove invaluable to Keefe’s understanding of herself and her purpose.

The simple ice cream maker churned out more than delicious frozen treats, because now, rather than going out for ice cream, families began coming over to Tamara’s house to participate in making their own. Each family would bring a different ingredient — the sugar, the cream, the fruit, etc — and through this communal effort, where class and status were thrown out the window, a passion was ignited in Tamara for the sense of community and friendship that ice cream can so easily produce. “It’s very powerful for me,” she explains. “It’s not just ice cream, it’s purpose.” She continued to honor this ritual every Sunday until her mom passed away, crystallizing within her with perfect clarity the bond between ice cream, family and community.

“It’s not just ice cream, it’s purpose.”

As Tamara grew older and rose to prominence in corporate America, she became distanced from these southern Californian memories of community and ice cream. Being a senior executive for a multinational company meant that Tamara once again began to feel isolated from those around her, traveling for business nearly 300 days out of a year, living from place to place without a strong sense of home. “I traveled all over the world,” she says. “In 2012, I was gone 262 days. And I realized I was miserable.” She began to yearn for the bonds of friendship, family, and community that had been nourished by her hand-cranked ice cream machine so many years ago. So, she combined her business experience with her passion for bringing people together through the simple pleasure of ice cream into her new purpose.  

The result is Clementine’s Naughty & Nice Creamery, a small but growing network of ice cream shops rooted in the very same egalitarian ideals that brought her community together and made those Sundays so special. “I wanted my product to be healthy, natural and good […]”, Keefe says, so an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients as well as a strong sense of community involvement were must for her. The ice cream should be delicious and be a positive force for responsible and ethically good social practices. It should taste like it did when you were a kid: simple, pure and joyful. It comes as no surprise then, that she worked tirelessly to have Clementine’s certified as a ‘microcreamery’. One of only 14 in the entire country, this coveted designation means that Keefe is able to trace the exact provenance of each individual ingredient in her expertly crafted, original recipes. And it is this intensely inventive range of flavors that gives Keefe and Clementine’s a distinct and meaningful identity.

Featuring ‘nice’ flavors like Salted Crack Caramel, Midnight Pleasures and Gooey Butter Cake, alongside a selection of ‘naughty’ alcohol-infused flavors (not merely flavored, mind you, actually containing alcohol) like Chocolate Cabernet and Maple Bourbon, plus plenty of seasonally rotating selections, it’s no wonder that Keefe’s vision has enjoyed a huge amount of success in St. Louis. With two scoop shops operating at full capacity and many more to come, the future for Tamara and Clementine’s is blindingly bright.

Tamara Headshot
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