Frustration is a great motivator. Just ask Ginger Corbett and Rachelle Fournier. Out shopping one day with another friend, the Las Vegans wanted to stop for a frozen treat. Vegas certainly has more than its share of ice creameries, fro-yo stops, fancy gelaterias and even some world-famous frozen custard. Only one problem: Corbett is dedicated to organics, Fournier is (mostly) vegetarian, and their other friend is lactose intolerant. They were S.O.L.
Less than a year later, Corbett and Fournier have opened Atomic No. 7, an ice cream store promising "Trustworthy Treats," every flavor combination made with soy, almond, coconut, rice, lactose-free, lo-fat yogurt or conventional milk, mostly organic flavorings and sweeteners — all certified vegan (well, except for the cow's milk, of course) by Vegan.org. And here's the real twist: It's all made to order in front of your eyes.
"We thought it would be a cool idea to make your ice cream completely fresh," Corbett says.
How? By pumping liquid nitrogen, which boils at a chilly minus-321 degrees Fahrenheit, into the mix. "That was the easiest way to do something for everyone," Fournier explains. That allows them to offer 20 flavorings, all made in-house, including apple, bubble gum and cardamom. "We make our caramel sauce, our strawberry sauce, our waffle cones, gluten-free waffle cones, vegan waffle cones, our chocolate shell, we roast our pistachios," Corbett says. Anything that can be vegan, is. Anything that can be organic, is.
- Atomic 7
- 605 Mall Ring Circle No. 110.
- 458-4777, atomicnumber7.com
"People are thinking more about what they're eating, and caring more about what's in their food," Corbett figures. "And not just pumping some white stuff out of a wall, assuming it's yogurt. We brought the entire kitchen out in view of the public."
The partners were both entertainment-industry veterans looking for a new pursuit (Corbett a lighting designer, the leggy Fournier a showgirl), but not necessarily looking to reinvent the wheel. After experimenting with nitrogen at Corbett's house ("my neighbors thought I was crazy") they found an opportunity in a former smoothie store outside the Galleria, across from Sunset Station.
Not surprisingly, those who have discovered the storefront since it opened this month have had strong reactions. "A lot of people have come in saying 'I can't believe you opened an ice cream shop just for me!'" Fournier says. "Other people come in and they don't understand — I don't blame them, who knew you could make ice cream in an instant?"
While doing research they discovered there were a few places dotted around the country making ice cream with this method — one in downtown New York, another in Chicago, and still others in Utah, Idaho and (of all places) Knoxville, Tennessee. But none has pursued the dietary opportunities afforded by making ice cream. Pattissiers at some of Vegas' more adventuresome restaurants are also using nitrogen to make confections — RM Seafood and Nu Sanctuary are two examples — but those only come at the end of a special meal. Atomic No. 7 makes the treats available to everyone, and at a fairly competitive price point.
It might seem improbable that Corbett and Fournier could turn a profit doing this. But as Corbett points out, they have almost no freezer space — a huge savings in infrastructure and energy (Who needs it? Everything's fresh!), and "we don't have Cold Stone's marketing costs." Well, not yet, anyway.
Already, the partners are looking to find a location in Summerlin and say they have fielded several franchise requests. Exciting as that sounds, Corbett and Fournier are putting off potential suitors. "It will probably be another six months," Corbett says, aware that the formula isn't yet perfect (some flavors work better with certain milks than others, for example). "As much as I'd love the money, I would never want to sell somebody a franchise where all the kinks weren't worked out yet."
Although the name obviously references the space-age use of nitrogen, Atomic No. 7 could well end up revolutionizing the business. Talk about a big bang.