by Marichel Vaught
When Brandon Darmstadt was 16 years old and a 10th grader at U-32 High School, he developed a business plan as a school project. His senior year of high school, Darmstadt was approved for a small business loan based on that business plan. Three months after graduating and at the age of 18, he opened the doors of his own company. That is how Arnie’s Ice Cream was born with the now 19-year-old Darmstadt at the helm.
“I’ve had hundreds of business ideas — for restaurants, resorts, military shipping,” said Darmstadt. “I’ve always been very entrepreneurial.” But for him, food has always been a passion. He has enjoyed cooking and baking from a very young age. Although he would have liked to open a full-service restaurant as his first business, he felt it would have been “too crazy” and overwhelming.
“I didn’t do well in a typical educational environment. I’d get bored,” said Darmstadt. He preferred hands-on and experiential learning. So Darmstadt joined a self-directed learning program offered at U-32 when he was a sophomore. Students in the program created their own curriculum and focused on their areas of interest. A big project was to create a business plan. The idea for Arnie’s came to him during a family camping trip. Darmstadt felt “there was a big gap when Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop left Montpelier.”
Within the next two years, Darmstadt attended a one-week crash course in ice cream production at Penn State University. “It was one of the most stressful and intense things” with full days of lectures and learning. He was the youngest in the class. He also decided that the best way to sell the ice cream was with a mobile cart and through monthly memberships. With the guidance of his business teacher, George Cook and advisor Ralf H. (Goober) Schaarschmidt, II from the New England Excess Exchange, Darmstadt was able to procure a small business loan with Community National Bank. He then collaborated with St. Albans Dairy Coop to create the base of the ice cream, its starting component.
The summer after graduating high school, when a lot of his classmates were preparing to go to college or working summer jobs, Darmstadt was busy finalizing a manufacturing space for his business. In August of 2015, Darmstadt officially launched Arnie’s Ice Cream from an 800-square-foot facility at 46 Gallison Hill Road, down the street from his alma mater. With assistance from his parents, Alisa and Chip, Darmstadt spends several hours practically every day dedicated to both the sales and production ends of Arnie’s. He attributes the independent learning program for helping him prepare for his rigid schedule and ability to plan ahead.
So who is Arnie? Darmstadt’s grandfather, Arnold Golodetz, passed away not long before a name was being decided for the company. Darmstadt chose Arnie’s Ice Cream as a homage to his grandfather, who actually disliked the nickname Arnie but loved ice cream. Darmstadt said he will actually respond to either “Hey, Brandon!” or “Hey, Arnie!”
Arnie’s Ice Cream flavors range from the typical to the unusual. The true passion that drives Darmstadt is the creation of flavors. He also has to balance what tastes good with what sells. Besides the classics, vanilla and chocolate, you may find Coffee Caramel Crunch and Spiced Orange (ice cream infused with orange along with notes of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger.) For Valentine’s month, flavors available will include Chocolate Covered Strawberry and Rosewater. Ingredients are sourced locally when possible — Benito’s Hot Sauce in the Spicy Maple Bacon, coffee flavors from Vermont Coffee Roasters, maple flavors from Five Forks Farm, caramel and toffee from Red Kite Candy. Darmstadt has personally experimented with all sorts of flavor combinations for fun and possible production— Barbecue (did not work), Pickle (too salty), Sriracha (ok), Steak (surprisingly, yum). This writer’s new favorite flavor: Aztec Chocolate — chocolate ice cream with cinnamon and cayenne — THE perfect frozen treat to warm up a winters day with that kick of cayenne.
Darmstadt wants to continue expanding and exploring. He’d like to grow Arnie’s Ice Cream with scoop shops, more carts, more retail sales and more memberships. He’d also like to venture into other areas such as filmmaking and computer coding. He’d love to go to culinary school. Darmstadt’s zeal for experiential learning simply does not end. He is ambitious, yet remains laid back and easy-going.
In the summer, you can find Brandon peddling his creations from a mobile cart in front of City Hall. And during the winter, he’s spotted at the Montpelier Farmers Market. Currently, pints are available for purchase at Red Hen Bakery, Uncommon Market and the Adamant Coop. Sarducci’s and Skinny Pancake have some on their dessert menus. You can also sign up for memberships to pick up a number of pints or half-gallons each month from their facility. Visit http://arnies-ice-cream.myshopify.com/ to start a membership and to find out what new flavors will be available.