Ruby Scoops is a new ice cream shop in Richmond. Owner Rabia Kamara prides herself in running the only Black and queer owned ice cream shop in the city and looks forward to being able to create fond memories and close relationships with her customers and community.
“This brand is built on nostalgia and creating memories,” said Ruby Scoops owner and operator Rabia Kamara. “It was important to be somewhere we could form relationships with families and see kids grow up.”
Kamara has been operating her ice cream business, Ruby Scoops, since 2015, but has now, after relocating from Washington, D.C., opened her first brick and mortar store in Richmond, at 120 W. Brookland Park Blvd.
“Richmond loves small business and Richmond loves Black business, and they’re very supportive. I’m glad to be here,” she said. “Part of me even getting into this industry was the way that I supported small Black businesses in Richmond.”
Originally hailing from Maryland, Kamara is one of seven first-generation American children. Since her childhood, she knew she wanted to cook for people, but said that her parents did not support her passion at the time. However, she says that they’ve since changed their minds.
“In college when I was able to explore myself and get to know myself, I reignited my passion for cooking and fell in love with feeding people again,” she said. “I think that had I not left Maryland to come to school in Richmond, then I would not have led myself to the career I have today.”
Kamara first fell in love with ice cream in culinary school. She saw it as a simple, blank slate that could incorporate whatever flavors she wanted, and felt that it gave her a new outlet of culinary artistry to accomplish things that she couldn’t do in baking or savory cooking.
“Growing up as a first generation American, this allows me to introduce people to the flavors I grew up with in a more beginner kind of way,” she said. “It lets people try things they haven’t tried before, in a medium they’re used to.”
She traces some of her flavors back to growing up in an Egyptian and Mauritian household. Some of her signature flavors are dulce de leche and mango sorbet. Recently, she ran a rum coquito flavor that sold out within a week. Her signature coffee date flavor was inspired by her partner, Emmett, and his upbringing in the military.
Kamara finally made the decision to start an ice cream business after witnessing an altercation between two young girls one night.
“When I worked as a pastry chef at Republic in Tacoma Park… I was watching families order and eat the desserts that I made, and one family ordered ice cream,” she said. “One of the little girls got distracted; and while she wasn’t looking, the other sister stole her ice cream. It led to a massive sibling uproar and one of the daughters had to be taken to the car outside. It took me back to a space of experiencing that with my six older siblings, and I felt that I wanted to be able to create those kinds of memories for families and children in their own lives for years to come.”
Ruby Scoops faced many hurdles in opening, but was finally able to kick things off in late November. As the weather gets colder and a global pandemic still lingers on, it now seems like this wasn’t an ideal time to open. However, Kamara stays optimistic, and ultimately prefers to be open. She says that she’s had a lot of help from other ice cream shops in Richmond, who have let her run pop-ups and use their machines when hers were broken.
“I wouldn’t change any of it for the world,” she said.
Richmond’s ice cream shops have become a staple of the food scene in the city as places like Charm School, Bev’s, and Scoop have become favorites for Richmonders. Kamara prides herself in being able to open the first shop in Richmond that’s owned by a Black, queer woman, and that makes all of their ice cream in-house. She says that Richmond is the perfect place to do this, too.
“[Being a female Black business owner] is a lot different than it was a few years ago; it’s come to light now that the [food] industry is super racist and super misogynistic. It’s wild to me that people are only just now realizing this, because I’ve been aware of it forever,” said Kamara. “A big thing for me is being unapologetically Black and unapologetically being the woman that I am…it’s important to me to be representative of myself and representative of the other Black kids who want to dance to the beat of their own drum.”
Kamara was also able to gain some notoriety (as well as some new friends) for her shop while participating with Richmond Bakers Against Racism, a coalition of bakers, chefs, and artisans who put on a city-wide bake sale to donate to charities and community organizations in Richmond neighborhoods. She says that people loved what she contributed to the boxes, and were excited for Ruby Scoops to open.
“Through RBAR I was able to meet new people in Richmond who shared my passions. Also knowing there are people who don’t look like me but want people who do look like me to succeed is really nice,” she said.
Kamara is excited for the future of Ruby Scoops. She’s keeping things small and slow for now with a limited menu and only operating on weekends, but says she’ll be testing out new menu items, new flavors, and building up hours.
“We want to be warm and welcoming, not only in personality but in the design of our interior, too. When the world makes sense, we want people to come in and hang out or have dates,” she said. “We took a lot of time to make this space how it is, and I want people to feel welcome.”
Top Photo by Noah Daboul