Ryan Fitzgerald is the Founder of 1-900-ICE-CREAM, a Philadelphia ice cream company that makes "intentional, fun recreations of scoop shop classics." But if you ask us, that description doesn't even scratch the surface of what 1-900 truly does. For starters, the ice cream is lightyears beyond anything you've ever had before. I remember the first time I had it and I felt like I'd been lied to my whole life about what ice cream actually is. The quality of the ingredients alone is something you can't find most places—Ryan only uses the best. And the flavor combinations that he conjures up on a weekly basis (400 and counting) make Willy Wonka's inventions sound boring.
But the thing we like about 1-900 just as much as the ice cream is the unapologetic, authentic nature of the brand and the human behind it. Let's back up...
Ryan was working in Finance when he started an underground dinner party out of his apartment called "Boku Supper Club." A couple nights a week he would sell a small number of reservations to his apartment dinner table and prepare a multi-course meal for his customers. Word spread about this unique and delicious dining experience and reservations quickly became nearly impossible to get. For dessert, Ryan would prepare homemade ice cream completely from scratch. While the food was great, the ice cream stole the show, and customers begged for ways to buy more—separate from a night at Boku. Ryan figured he might be onto something and decided to go all in, quitting his job, and making/selling pints of 1-900-Ice-Cream in plastic containers with sticker labels.
If you don't know what a "1-900" phone number is, it's that pay-per-call hotline from the early 90's for essentially anything you could imagine - mostly phone sex, psychic readings, dirty jokes, and celebrity voices. That sets the tone for the brand right there. On 1-900's Instagram, Ryan announces flavor names that sound like the first thing that pops into the head of someone who also names strains of weed: Cozy Boi Slumber Suit, Snuggle Jungle, Uncle Charlie Walk-Off, Space Sex, Ego Death, Tickle Rider, High Times Ninety-Nine, to name a few...
Ryan documents basically everything on 1-900's story. From the manufacturing of that week's flavors, to weekly disasters (we get into a couple below), to sending out a Philly-wide search party for a petty shoplifter. It's far and away the most entertaining social media of any brand we know and something you just need to see for yourself. Luckily for you, Ryan will be taking over the Bandit Instagram this Friday, ahead of our pop-up collaboration for the Philadelphia Marathon.
Without further adieu... 5 Questions with Ryan:
Alright brotha, let's start with a layup... Give us your favorite ice cream flavor/topping combo?
I’m very burnt out on ice cream, but as a kid Gold Medal Ribbon from Baskin Robins was my favorite flavor. My favorite ice creams to make are coffee bases with fruit swirls. People don’t understand, until they try it.
With any strong personality/brand, you're always going to get a reaction out of someone. What's the worst customer review of all time?
I’ve turned almost every negative review into a pint name, so “worst" ends up being the “best”. Someone responded to a story that was sent to them and the reply went to me (very common occurrence) and he said “what’s with all the shit ass flavors." The next day I made a pint called “Shit Ass Flavor”.
Sounds delicious. Speaking of flavors, what do you think of the mans Willy Wonka? Good guy? Bad guy? Misunderstood?
Not on my radar.
Zinggg. You essentially live in an ice cream factory. How much ice cream do you consume per week?
I eat ice cream on a yearly basis and you could count the amount of times on a cat’s paw
No one knows what that means and that's why we love you. You also show everyone everything on IG. Or at least that's what it feels like. What was the biggest snafu/disaster/incident you've ever posted about?
We dropped an entire skid of pints off the back of the truck on Frankford ave. A skid is 972 pints. The gym across the street caught that on their security cameras. A meth-head stole our 16-foot reefer (refrigerated box truck). It was recovered in Jersey. I went to go pick it up from the impound lot and found a sack of meth the size of my fist in the cup holder, syringes, several crack pipes, and a bag full of women’s clothes. We know the perpetrator was a guy. It is believed he was a cross-dresser and was running tricks in the back of the truck. After what I saw in the back of the truck, I can confirm something like this happened. I called the cops and told them about the drugs. They said the troopers were busy and that I should just thrown them in the trash. These aren’t the worst, but definitely up there. I have a saying at 1-900 “It’s always something”. Every day serves me a snafu, disaster, and/or incident…It’s always something…
But did you throw the meth away? Don't answer that. What's your favorite ice cream scene in a movie or tv show ever?
Forrest Gump being rolled in on a gurney holding two ice cream cones, seeing lieutenant Dan.
Double-fisting for the win. I meant to ask this earlier... What are the top three qualities of an amazing pint of ice cream?
It starts with the dairy. You need high quality dairy with a high butterfat, and low stabilizers. No flavorings or extracts, except for mint. I can always tell if they use a flavoring or extract. The third one is what we do better than anyone else, and that’s a trade secret.
So what's the best ice cream besides 1-900?
Morgenstern's. That’s my guy.
I've had it and I have to agree. What separates 1-900 apart from other ice cream?
Our dairy is incredible and the mix formula is clean label. We also spin our Philly-style (no eggs), American ice cream on Italian gelato machines. No one else makes as many flavors as we do. I’ve made over 400 official pint flavors in the four years I’ve been doing this. Creating new pints every week and rarely repeating, at this scale is truly unique to 1-900. And then that third thing I mentioned before that is a trade secret.
With 400 flavors, there's gotta be at least one bomb. What's the worst flavor you've ever created?
I only ever had one bad flavor. I tried to make a gingerbread non-dairy tub. I used the same amount of spices as my dairy ice cream; but without the butterfat to mellow the spice, it was blown out on spice. I also made a pink peppercorn ice cream. When I first spun it, it was good. But after a few days, the flavors really bloomed (this is something you need to be cognizant of when using spices in ice cream) and it was pretty floral and peppery in the way that pink peppercorns are. I didn’t like it, but we had a lot of customers buy it. In my book both were bad, but only one I actually tossed out.
Ya can't yuck other people's yum. Speaking of other people, who's your best customer and how much ice cream have they bought?
There’s a couple ways to parse the data. Number of transactions and money spent and retail location versus shipped ice cream. Without putting anyone on blast, we have one customer who visits the scoop shop every three days on average. The top spender has spent over $6,000.
Quick math, carry the one, exponents... that person has eaten a lot of ice cream. What's the best pairing you can imagine with ice cream?
Pretzels and ice cream. Those big Synders Sourdough ones that make dentists rich.
Thought you were going to say coffee. Ya always keep me on my toes. Thanks dude, I'll see ya this weekend.
That was fun. See you!