This Virginia Ice Cream Shop Is Worth Planning a Trip Around. Really.

Rabia Kamara is known as the Ice Cream Lady for a reason.

Strawberry ice cream being scooped

Serghei Platonov / Getty Images

Rabia Kamara is a classically trained chef, but she calls herself the Ice Cream Lady.

It's not just the small ice cream cone tattoo on her right forearm; Kamara is a bit of a local celeb. During our interview at a local restaurant, a family came up to speak to her for a good 15 minutes. "You're like a celebrity," said one of her regular customers.

Kamara may be a Richmond, VA legend, but her growing ice cream empire is attracting attention from a national audience and even A-listers. "Why at any point in my life would I think that Kevin Bacon or Ludacris would know who I am?" But they do now. Bacon even called her ice cream the best he's ever tasted.

It began in 2014, when the Ice Cream Lady launched Ruby Scoops, selling her concoctions at events and festivals in D.C. and Richmond. Her 2020 Kickstarter, which raised more than $30,000, allowed her to open the first brick-and-mortar Ruby Scoops location. When the Food Network came calling last year with vague details about an ice cream competition show, she was in. Kamara has been making ice cream for almost a decade in the D.C. and Virginia areas, with a focus on seasonal ingredients — think flavors like hot honey cornbread, blackberry mandarin mojito, and Thai basil — so the show was a natural fit.

While filming Ben & Jerry's Clash of the Cones last year, the first competition had contestants whip up unique ice cream flavors based on celebrities. Actor Kevin Bacon shared his dream for the perfect ice cream, citing ingredients like bananas, dark chocolate, almonds, peanut butter, and tequila.

So, Kamara created Bacon's Bananas for Chocolate, a concoction of banana and fried plantain ice cream, brownie chunks, dark chocolate covered almonds, malt balls, and toffee bits. She topped it off with peanut butter caramel.

"It was a lot, and one of the judges really hated that," she said with a laugh. But when Bacon sampled the creation once production wrapped, he said, "This is hands down the best ice cream that I've ever tasted." Kamara still has the four minute long clip of Bacon's reaction saved on her phone.

Long before the competition, Kamara's flavors have always been fun and even a bit out there. "My brain just says, 'Try stuff.' I started to really use ice cream as a medium most people are comfortable with," Kamara said.

Her ice cream shop Ruby Scoops regularly sees lines out the door, with people seeking cups, cones, and even flights of her ice cream. Before the shop opened in November 2020, fans could only get their fix at pop-ups, but with a dedicated location, Kamara can really connect with customers.

It's not just the rotating dozen flavors or colorful interior (the paint-dipped spoons and ice cream scoops on the walls are IG-worthy!). Kamara also brings a sense of Black-owned joy and vibrance to the northside neighborhood of Brookland Park, which has experienced rapid gentrification.

Kamara initially wanted a shop near Virginia Commonwealth University, her alma mater, but anytime she came back to Richmond from D.C. for pop-up events, she always ended up in Northside, either driving through or staying at an Airbnb.

"After a while, it resonated with me that this neighborhood has unconsciously tethered me to it," she said.

Taking the leap to open an ice cream shop in a pandemic, and in November at that, was daunting, but also a sign to Kamara of what's possible. "I've been blessed enough to make it function through the end of times. How much greater can it be?"

The Ruby Scoops location was open for less than a year before Clash of the Cones aired, and she's already signed a seven-year lease for a space that's 3,700 square feet. The current shop is less than 200.

Where's she moving to? Just down the block. "I'm trying to create what I'm calling a Northside Pole."

"I really wanted to be a neighborhood ice cream shop and have regulars and watch kids grow up and it's already happened," she said. "There are people that came into the shop pregnant that have full-grown babies now."

Kamara sees this larger space as an opportunity to make more flavors, possibly keeping some fan favorites in steady rotation (Bacon's Bananas for Chocolate year round, maybe?), as well as possibly offering commercial space for other business owners, providing them with the resources she wished she had as a young entrepreneur.

"My goal is to have enough space for ourselves, but also to bring in a few people like in a commissary sense," she said. "We can bring in bakers and confectioners and give them a space to grow their businesses. I came up in commercial spaces, so I know what people need and what I can possibly do for them."

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles