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Portland-based gourmet ice cream sandwich maker sets up shop at suburban mall

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Cecilia Todd, 4, left, and Liam Wakefield, 5, enjoy an ice cream sandwich at the Ruby Jewell trailer at Bridgeport Village.Portland's premier gourmet ice cream sandwich shop has opened in Bridgeport Village.

In early August, Ruby Jewel brought one of its iconic VW-replica Jewel Buses to the shopping complex's Center Court.

Amanda Spear, Ruby Jewel's mobile marketing fleet general manager, said the company is excited to locate one of their ice cream trailers in Tualatin.

"If it were normal times, we'd be at the Moda Center, Oaks Park; we're also at the zoo in the summertime," Spear said. "Those are our permanent locations that we normally have, but obviously because of COVID, we had to get a little bit more strategic, and Bridgeport Village has always really been on our radar."

Lisa Herlinger founded Ruby Jewel in 2004. She sold her first ice cream sandwich creations at Portland farmers markets.

In addition to Bridgeport Village, there is a Jewel Bus at BG's Food Cartel in Beaverton, and a third bus soon will move into the Hawthorne Asylum, a food cart pod in Southeast Portland, Spear said.

The Ruby Jewel Buses sell seven varieties of the 5.25-ounce prepackaged ice cream sandwich treats.

"It's enough for two people to share or a very hungry person," Spear said of the typical sandwich.

Ruby Jewel also has four brick-and-mortar stores around Portland as well.

Spear said what makes its products unique is that they contain all-natural ingredients from the Northwest.

"We get our lavender local. We have fresh Oregon mint," she said. "Anything we use in our ice cream as an ingredient, we try to source locally."

Spear said honey-lavender ice cream sandwiched in between lemon cookies has become PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Seven flavors of Ruby Jewel ice cream sandwiches are featured at their VW-bus themed food trailer at Bridgeport Village. Ruby Jewel's flagship flavor, along with Oregon mint ice cream with dark chocolate cookies.

"Those are the two (products) that Lisa created and sold at the farmers market back in 2004 to get our company off the ground," she said.

Another popular flavor is the Oregon strawberry ice cream with brown sugar cookie. Spear's personal favorite is Ruby Jewel's butterscotch ice cream with oatmeal chocolate chip cookie.

Seeking a way to commercialize her product, in 2009, Herlinger sought the help of Oregon State University's Food Innovation Center in Portland, winning the "America's Food Fight" competition that same year.

Spear said Ruby Jewel's plan at Bridgeport Village includes testing the market there with the possibility of opening a brick-and mortar store there at some point.

And how is the Jewel Bus at Bridgeport Village doing so far?

"Oh my gosh, it's awesome. It's so amazing and it's so lively," Spear said. "It's just a positive vibe."

Not only is Ruby Jewel a local company, but it is active in social justice issues as well. At the same time, the company has been providing snacks for first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic, Spear noted.

"We are very happy that ice cream is one of those things that is kind of like — you know — pandemic-proof," she said.

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