Updated: Apr 10, 2020
Written Teresa Donnellan
Photographed by Liz Calka and Melissa Matthews Contributing reporting from Shaakira DeLoatch
Those of us clinging to summer are keeping cool with Ruby Scoops, a local, handcrafted ice cream brand that features interesting, seasonal, and often dairy-free flavors. This delightful dessert brand is run by Rabia Kamara, a DC native and the former head pastry chef at Republic. She was the first kitchen member at that restaurant whose food was mentioned in a newspaper, and her desserts were a hit. But Rabia didn’t see much acknowledgment coming back to her. That was her first frustration. “The other frustration was how many savory chefs are not able to share their spotlight,” she said, explaining that some chefs are afraid a dessert will outshine a meal.
Rabia has a lot of positive, “sugar-induced” food memories. “I think a lot of people are like that,” she said, “and I’m ready to focus on making dessert and letting that be what shines for people.” While inspired by their founder, the name of the brand and the company’s logo were influenced by Rabia’s family and friends. An early idea of Rabia’s was to name the business Susie Scoops after her grandmother, but those around her liked the personal touch of using Rabia’s professional nickname. (Rabia, an Arabic name, has a negative connotation in Spanish, so some Latino coworkers began calling her Ruby in 2012.) “Everyone just loved it,” Rabia said of her company’s name. Likewise, Rabia knew the general cartoon-style she wanted on the logo, but her original thought was to have the character be a darker skinned, curly-haired baby. A friend she hired to make the logo suggested making the character look more like her, with her skin tone and her glasses. Once again, people reacted positively to this touch of the real Rabia.
Big things are on the horizon for Ruby Scoops. Rabia will attend an intensive ice cream course at Penn State soon. In five years, she hopes to have three storefronts. Keep an eye out for Ruby Scoops at food festivals the DMV and in Mom’s Organic Markets in College Park, MD and Alexandria, VA. Rabia wants to encourage other young creatives to pursue entrepreneurship. “I think we’re used to people telling us we have to wait ‘til we’ve crossed the finish line somewhere else to start the next race. That’s not fair to us,” she said. “I’m not saying that you shouldn’t keep a full-time job and start your part-time hustle. Do that.” She added, “Don’t be afraid to start. Don’t be afraid to tell somebody what your dream is, so they can hold you accountable for it. And set realistic goals.” Follow Ruby Scoops on Instagram and twitter @rubyscoopsic or on rubyscoops.com.