by Paul Kirkman

My spouse (also named Paul) and I live in north central Minnesota - fully rural considering that the nearest community, about six miles away, has a mere 111 residents. The transition from the Twin Cities started in 2007 and was complete by 2013. At this point, we can't imagine living anywhere else.

Once we were fully removed from the Cities, we started to miss some of our favorite foods... a farmstead cheese we found at one shop, or a brand of artisan crackers from another store, or a hard-to-find liqueur from our favorite liquor store that happens to be an important ingredient in our favorite craft cocktail. We found that every time we went to the Cities, we went with a cooler in the trunk and came back north stocked with our favorite foods and refreshments. And, we discovered, that almost all our friends with urban roots did the same. Why weren't some of our favorite things available up here? Could we do something about it in a way that made sense, economically?

I have a strong preference for high quality (let's be real: high butterfat) ice creams with all-natural ingredients, preferably from a small independent scoop shop that makes their own on site. After all, homemade ice cream is a life-long family tradition on my side, for decades made with an old hand-crank bucket. Paul, unfortunately is lactose intolerant and couldn't enjoy what I feel is one of the biggest benefits of family membership. Why hasn't the dairy industry figured out that more than 20% of the US population is lactose intolerant and can't enjoy dairy products without intestinal distress? Could we create our own brand of ice cream that's lactose-free and tastes as good as the best brands of ice cream?

And can we combine those concepts into one fabulous store that focuses on providing all kinds of goodness?

Months of brainstorming led to the creation of a business plan, evaluation of financial projections, acceptance at "cheese school" in San Francisco and "ice cream college" in Wisconsin. We were accepted as an official project by the Agricultural Utilization Resource Institute to launch the ice cream part of the business, and we contracted with the head of the Food Sciences Department at the University of Wisconsin to determine how we needed to modify our base recipe to account for the elimination of lactose. Each step forward led to another step forward and before we realized it, we were planning to open our dual-concept retail store, named Victual, in Crosby, MN.

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