Ice-cream maker takes ultra-low-tech route

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Liza Gipsova, who was visiting from Washington D.C., tries out one of the stationary bikes used to churn ice cream at Peddler's Creamery in Downtown Los Angeles. MIGUEL VASCONCELLOS, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

Edward Belden wanted to run a business. He also wanted to promote environmental conservation. And make ice cream too. So he churned the three into Peddler’s Creamery, a one-of-a-kind scoop shop in downtown Los Angeles.

At a time when ice cream is going high-tech, with liquid nitrogen freeze-to-order shops popping up all over Southern California, Belden’s model is the polar opposite: Peddler’s Creamery doesn’t even use electricity.

Instead, Belden relies on a team of pedalers, more than 100 when volunteer enrollment is highest, to power a stationary bike attached to an ice cream churner. After a 20 minute ride at a 15-mph pace, several gallons of organic ice cream are ready to eat.

“All of our ice cream is made using that bike,” Belden said. “It’s a pretty sweet job.”

There are rewards for riders, ranging from a free scoop or pint of ice cream for making a single batch, to clothes for those who churn multiple times. The coveted Peddler’s Creamery “Yellow Jersey” is bestowed on the rider who clocks the most miles over the course of a year.

San Gabriel resident Bernard Labansat, 30, has been a pedaler for about a year. He rides about 300 miles per week on his bike, so for him, churning the ice cream isn’t much of a challenge. He said the free scoops of Raspberry Poptart, salted caramel, and cinnamon ice cream keep him coming back.

“A lot of people feel guilty for eating ice cream, but if you’re sitting on that bike and you get that workout, you don’t need to,” he said.

Belden, who works as the National Forest Foundation’s Southern California program associate, and calls Peddler’s Creamery his “full-time night job,” was schooled in ice cream’s intricacies while enrolled at the University of Wisconsin. He took a class all about the sweet treat and came up with his concept.

In the 10 years between graduating and opening the business, Belden did a lot of field research: He ate a lot of ice cream.

“I would pick up little bits of things I could utilize,” he said. “It’s the best kind of research you can do.”

Instead of more storefronts, Belden says, he will expand with mobile carts that will sell his bike-churned ice cream throughout the Los Angeles area. Pints of Peddler’s flavors will also soon be found in small specialty grocery stores, and 5 percent of all profits will be donated to charity.

“That’s what we’re really trying here,” Belden said. “To give people the opportunity to have something that’s going to put a smile on their face and leave a smaller footprint in the process.”

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