Kari Crowe Seher firmly believes that a visit to Melt Ice Cream can help the world.
“Someone can come here and have the best five minutes of their day, and that can change their day,” she said.
That’s the goal of Melt Ice Cream, which opened in 2014 and has since expanded to four shops offering those five minutes of happiness across North Texas.
Melt’s slogan is: “We believe treats can change your day and your day can change the world.”
Before founder Seher opened the initial shop, she was involved with the local restaurant industry, only photographing food, not making it. Taking photos of restaurants, food and the people behind the kitchen door sent her in a different direction.
“I fell in love with the food culture of Fort Worth,” she said. “I did a lot of photojournalism work, so getting to peek behind the scenes and understand a little bit of what is involved in the food industry was really helpful in what I do now.”
Seher, 38, and her husband, Mark, moved to Fairmount 13 years ago shortly after they married. They traveled a lot at the time, and they sought out two things in the cities they visited: pizza and ice cream.
It wasn’t just the love of the food.
“You can learn a lot about a city’s culture through those two things because people are loyalists to their favorite pizza place and favorite ice cream place,” she said.
When she started to investigate entering the food business herself, she did some market research and found something lacking in the local market: ice cream.
“As hot as it is in Texas, we were just always amazed that there wasn’t the local spot for ice cream in DFW as a whole,” she said. “There really wasn’t a place that people always took their kids to make memories, and so that’s just where the idea sparked.”
Seher, who had a small wedding photography business, was ready for a career change.
She dove in, she admits, somewhat naively.
“I waited tables my entire life, so I’d been on that end of it, but I really had no clue on what I was really doing,” she said.
But she learned and appreciated the experiences – positive and negative – along the way.
“Like most things in life, there is some beauty in naivety,” she said. “If you knew how hard things were, you wouldn’t sign up for them.”
An ultra runner – a sport she took up after college – she knew she could learn to do anything.
Always a home cook who experimented with different flavors, she didn’t understand much about the world of commercial foods, so she set about educating herself.
“There was a lot of experimenting,” she said.
She also apprenticed with some ice cream makers in Ohio.
“They really helped me develop some of my basic recipes, more along the lines of texture and things like that,” she said.
When the business could afford it, she hired culinary professionals with experience to help find the flavors that worked.
But the business remains collaborative, particularly on developing new flavors.
“Everybody can contribute flavor ideas, and everybody has an opinion of a flavor idea they want to do, and the chef will try it if we think it’ll sell,” she said.
There are some standard flavors, but there are always specials. In July, it was a key lime pie flavor and later in the month there will be peach flavors from the harvest in Parker County.
The first physical location opened in 2014 on Rosedale Avenue just a little bit away from what was then the burgeoning Magnolia Avenue food and small business scene.
Although Melt Ice Cream was off the beaten path, customers found the shop.
Despite the acclaim, the shop’s foot traffic was limited on Rosedale and the shop had only four parking spaces.
“It was so great, so gratifying to see people come find us, though,” she said.
“I think Will and Corrie saw a little bit of more into the future than we did, in terms of what this space could be for a business,” she said.
The site of Melt Ice Cream’s Magnolia location was mainly used then for storing shoes. To get construction started as soon as possible, the shoes needed to be moved, so she and some friends began moving the them to a storage container in the parking lot. Seher traded ice cream for help moving the shoes.
“We were gritty in the beginning. I mean, we’re still gritty, but we did what we had to do,” she said.
Since then, Melt has opened a location in Sundance Square, the Stockyards and in Dallas. The company also has a team dedicated to catering and vending with an ice cream truck and four ice cream carts. The company has about 60 employees.
And Seher feels as if they have met her goal of opening a place that would make people happy and “have the best five minutes of their day,” she said.
That promise of happiness extends to the business’ color scheme of yellow and black. Some of that color scheme goes back to her work in photography and art.
“Yellow is the color of happiness. In the art world, every color on the color wheel really has an emotion tied to it,” she said. “It just felt like a natural fit because our mission and vision is to create happy moments for people.”
Seher knows it goes beyond a color scheme or even a good product. It takes an overall positive experience.
“If you have a really good product and a really good experience, people can feel that in your space. I think it helps us with what we’re trying to do for the community, and making a community spot for people,” she said.
Beyond the physical locations of Melt, the company sells products online through Goldbelly, which allows them to ship anywhere in the country overnight. They also sell packaged flavors in boutique grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Meyer & Sage.
Already a supporter of the local foodie scene even before she began Melt Ice Cream, Seher remains a big supporter. She was on the chef’s committee at the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival for several years, but stepped off this year as the demands from Melt Ice Cream increased.
“I love the festival,” she said. “I volunteer as much as I can, and I love what they do.”
The festival provides scholarships for education in the restaurant industry, and that is key, Seher said. She thinks there is a misconception about working in the industry and the more educational opportunities are offered, the better for the industry and those in it.
“Especially for women in the industry,” she said. “I’m really passionate about getting women into the industry and women in business in general.”
Seher said management was a big learning curve for her, and she’s still learning.
“I love that part of it now,” she said. “I love leading people. I love working with a team of people.”
She studied people in the industry she admired and asked questions.
“I’ll spend time with restaurateurs I think are doing it right and then lead from a very humble place and take care of their people really well,” she said.
Lots of her employees are young people, in many cases in high school, and Seher feels responsible to teach them lessons they can take with them.
“We are teaching them valuable skills like how to have a job,” she said. “We spend a lot of time on that education portion of that, and what expectations should be around management and leadership, and what our expectations of them are for having a job and being employed by us as a company.”
At the same time, the leadership team at the company is learning as well, she said.
“We have some on the leadership team that are professionals that have spent more time in the industry, and we all learn from each other,” Seher said.
Natalie Meyer has been operations manager at Melt for about 18 months. Seher puts a lot of trust in the team and lets her people figure out problems on their own, she said.
“She really paves the way and sets great goals for us,” Meyer said. “She really broadcasts the vision of what she wants Melt to be, and not just today, not just tomorrow, but a year, and five years from now.”
Seher said she and the company’s management team also learned plenty during the pandemic that impacted restaurants. The company had opened its Dallas location in the spring of 2019 and the Sundance Square location in the fall of that year.
“We had poured all that capital into opening the store and then the pandemic hit before we were able to make back that investment, and that was pretty scary,” she said.
Seher called business people who had been through a recession and asked them questions on what they did that set them up for success and what they wished they had done.
Seher heeded the advice.
“Some of those professionals told me, ‘Pick three things. Thin out everything else, but pick three things that are really important to your company and the values of your company, and let that be the theme that guides you through the roller coaster,’ ” she said.
The company cut back wherever it could and closed the two new stores for 10 weeks. What they didn’t cut down on was the quality of the product, the marketing of the products and taking care of their employees.
“We didn’t cut down on marketing because we didn’t want our customers to forget us,” she said.
And, she is quick to point out, they didn’t forget her.
Those three things put the company in the position to excel when the pandemic receded, she said.
Melt is also involved in nonprofits, giving a percentage of its sales to an organization called The Birthday Party Project. The nonprofit works to provide birthday parties to children in families facing poverty and homelessness.
Melt gives team members opportunities to help with those birthday parties that are often taking place in shelters in the area.
“I think that’s important to their experience here,” he said.
She also uses her running abilities to be an ambassador for an organization called Free to Run, which empowers girls and women in conflict regions around the world.
“They were in Afghanistan, Iraq, a lot of these conflict regions that are pretty dangerous, or where women traditionally haven’t been allowed to play sports,” she said.
Seher believes many entrepreneurs can become very negative when they have a bad day. She pushes against that tendency.
“I would say that not to ever think that a bad day is the rest of your business,” she said.
Entrepreneurs and leaders often look for ways to fix things that are problems, she said. But that carries a price, she feels.
“We forget to celebrate, and I think that celebration for entrepreneurs and leaders is so important, to remember the successes that you’ve had and the wins that you’ve had,” she said. “There are a lot of hard things, but when something hard is happening, don’t write off all the good things that are happening.”
Kari Crowe Seher bio:
Birthplace: Dallas, Georgia
Family: Husband, Mark, who is chief financial officer at Melt Ice Cream.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Dallas Baptist University in photojournalism and studio art
Work experience: Freelance photographer
Volunteer experience: Chef’s Committee at Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival, The Birthday Project, Free to Run
Favorite ice cream flavor: Peanut butter chocolate chip
First job: Seher waited at a lot of tables.
Advice for someone learning to be a leader: I got this from Zingerman’s (a restaurant group in Michigan) co-founder Ari Weinzweig, who has written several books on management. Something that he always talks about and I try to think about is that the energy that you bring really affects everybody around you. It might be silly to say this in this perspective, but I think about it a lot in terms of my dog, who I recently just lost. He could sense if you walked in a room and you were in a bad mood or a good mood, and the way that he’d react to you. To me, it always painted this picture of simplicity the same way with any organization. If I walk in here and I don’t speak to my staff, and if I just look at the problems, that’s so deflating. But if I walk in and tell them all the wonderful things that they’re doing, or any of my leaders and celebrate the things that are going really well, that energy that I bring to them, it just has a ripple effect on the organization.
Best advice ever received: It’s never a straight line. That just if something goes down doesn’t mean it’s going all the way down. That things come back up, and that you’ll regret it if you don’t enjoy the journey because it goes by really fast.
Bob Francis is business editor for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.