Lisa Herlinger says she remembers the look on the face of her first customer, biting into one of her Ruby Jewel honey lavender ice cream cookie sandwiches at the Portland Farmers Market in 2004. “Elated,” Herlinger recalls. “I knew I wanted to make people feel that way as much as possible.”
Nostalgia? Marketing? Sugarcoating? Whatever the case, Herlinger should feel fairly elated herself these days. Ruby Jewel’s brand-new 10,000-square-foot production facility in industrial Northeast feels about as far away as you can get from that farmers market: a giant fridge cools 2,000 gallons of ice cream, a ridiculous freezer stores 125,000 ice cream sandwiches, and trays of salted caramels and tubs of crumbled cookie bits pack an industrial kitchen ripped straight out of Wonka’s dreams. This industrial ice cream complex can now pump out 5,000 sandos a day.
Named after a Colorado yurt Herlinger dubbed her “happy place,” Ruby Jewel opened its first shop on N Mississippi Avenue in 2010. Two other stores followed, diverting Herlinger’s attention from her grocery line. Now, Herlinger says she plans to expand beyond Portland to get her sandwiches into as many faces as possible.
Currently, the sandwiches are sold in Whole Foods, New Seasons, and Fred Meyer chains, among several others in the West. With the increased production—10 times the company’s former capacity—Herlinger sees 2016 as the year her company gets fat, hoping to increase sales in other states by 50 percent. Four new flavors, including one with brown-sugar cookies and strawberry sour cream ice cream, will bolster her five classics. Herlinger plans to amp up Ruby Jewel’s presence in the existing locations with in-store demos and focus on higher-end natural grocers.
“I’m very star-struck by our dock door, because now trucks can unload right in our space instead of doing everything by hand,” she says. “We had to expand or we couldn’t grow.”