When Sean Vahey and Jake Godby opened the first outpost of Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco, they scooped out whimsical flavors like Secret Breakfast, a boozy whirlwind of bourbon-spiked ice cream with a cornflake cookie crunch, and absolutely no vanilla ice cream.
“We opened with what we wanted to eat,” Vahey remembers. “In San Francisco, we let our freak flag fly, and this is a representation of that.”
“This” refers to the joy-giving world of ice cream, a frosty medium Godby and Vahey rely on to express themselves and connect with their community. Since 2008, they’ve been dreaming up creative ice cream flavors that straddle savory and sweet, creamy and crunchy. They’ve also expanded from their little shop in the Mission with lines out the door to four locations across the Bay Area with two more opening by the end of this year.
“Opening Humphry Slocombe allowed us to be super creative, do exactly what we wanted to do, and express ourselves in every way,” Vahey says.
He and Godby met while working in the San Francisco restaurant industry, with Vahey in hotels and Godby as a pastry chef. One night Godby called up Vahey, telling him to come over and try an ice cream he made.
“It made me happy, and it tasted delicious, and it was totally Jake,” Vahey remembers. “It just hit all the senses.”
That was Secret Breakfast. Godby struck up a simple business proposal: He’d make the ice cream, and Vahey could run the shop. For Vahey, it was a done deal. “I liquidated my 401(k) the next day,” he says.
Come Pride Month, Humphry Slocombe usually partners with other creatives in the LGBTQ+ community for cool, creamy treats. In the past, they’ve worked with celebrities such as the show “Queer Eye,” and even local drag queen Juanita MORE!, for special flavors and donated the proceeds to LGBTQ+ focused organizations like the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) Historical Society.
This year, it’s a little different. Customers can create their own Pride Sundae with two scoops of any ice cream, a sprinkling of edible glitter and Froot Loops, and a puff of homemade cotton candy.
“Our guests are our partners,” says Vahey. “Now that I’m older, Pride is more about celebrating with friends. Some people missed out on that due to the pandemic. So this year, it’s all about grabbing your crew and having a Pride Sundae.”
And you can get that sundae with vanilla ice cream, which Vahey and Godby finally gave in to making.
“We think of vanilla as boring, but ours isn’t,” he says of the ultra-vanilla-y ice cream with hand-scraped fresh Tahitian vanilla beans. “Hundreds and hundreds of flavors later, we’re still going for it."