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As 2020 resolutions counter temptation, Teri-Lynn Friesen and Élise Page will be waiting to console those who slip — and they’ll have ice-cream scoops at the ready.
Late last year, the creative duo opened Fête — Winnipeg’s newest coffee and ice-cream parlour, offering an ever-changing menu of 16 made-in-house ice-cream flavours, affogato and, if it’s Sunday morning, pancakes.
There’s also no pressure to pick a flavour at first sight; the shop offers unlimited samples.
"If you gave up coffee, we’re here for you when you need to come back. If you gave up sweets, we’re also here for you," said Friesen, co-owner of the shop at 300 Assiniboine Ave.
"We open again on the 10th; come break your resolutions!"
Fête joins a growing list of artisan ice-cream spots in the city (Dug & Betty’s Ice Creamery, Milksmith and Chaeban, among others) counting on hardy Winnipeggers and their sweet teeth to keep them in business year-round.
On an otherwise residential stretch in the downtown Broadway-Assiniboine neighbourhood, the business’s east-facing windows look out onto Bonnycastle Dog Park.
Friesen and Page — owners of Bailey the beagle and Zeus the chocolate lab, respectively — said many of their customers are dog owners, animal lovers or passersby on foot or bike. Their shop has a "doggie wall of fame," which displays Polaroid snapshots of pups taken outside the store. For health-code reasons, animals aren’t allowed inside.
True to its name, which translates to "party" in French, the shop has already hosted multiple birthday parties and reunions during its first six weeks in business. (Friesen doesn’t speak French, but Page does.)
The 31-year-old entrepreneurs said they were inspired by their grandmothers and their kitchens in brainstorming how to create a welcoming space. Being a mother of 15, Page’s grandmother was no stranger to throwing celebrations of all sorts.
Their recipes, however, aren’t generations-old secrets. The duo only started learning how to make ice cream a little over a year ago.
Friesen has a theatre degree from the University of Winnipeg and Page graduated from the School of Contemporary Dancers. They met as instructors at Masterworks Dance Studio.
It was a casual conversation at the studio that spiralled, eventually combining Friesen’s ice-cream making hobby (she began experimenting with a small-batch machine and a pack of store-bought mini doughnuts at home) and Page’s dream to open up a coffee shop; she already had a business plan.
In Fall 2018, after a short training session, they began to teach themselves how to make ice cream in commercial machines in the University of Manitoba’s food sciences department.
"It was like detective work. We’d taste it and it was like, ‘OK, still not there.’ It could be dry or crumbly, so we’d go back home and go on the internet,’" Friesen said.
At one point, they ended up burning a batch, Page recalled.
"You have to heat it up to pasteurize it and so then sometimes, if you don’t consistently stir it, then you burn it because there’s eggs in it," she said. "We’ve also had scrambled eggs in our ice cream."
Within a year, they had perfected their process, bought their own machines and opened their shop. Page, who was pregnant throughout most of the planning process, gave birth to her second child shortly after the November opening.
"I often felt almost judged that I was having to share my time with my family and my business because the business is essentially a baby," she said, adding her supportive husband has made things easier. At the same time, Page said being a mom has also allowed her to find support in others, including her business partner.
They agreed their artistic backgrounds came in handy when they were launching Fête, thanks to their experiences applying for grants and executing theatre performances and dance choreography.
"If you’re going to be an artist in the city, you have to be entrepreneurial. You have to figure out how to get your work shown, how to build a product and bring it to the market," Friesen said.
When the business reopens Jan. 10, there will be a series of "staycation" flavours for Winnipeggers who didn’t get a chance to flee the city in favour of a warmer climate over the holidays.
Over their holiday hiatus, they’ve been experimenting with Cuban cigar, mojito and toasted coconut and grilled pineapple.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.