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About five years ago, Marco and Michael Martinez began learning to churn ice cream from their grandfather, who is originally from Jalisco, Mexico.
He taught them the old-fashioned style of ice cream-making using ice and salt and encouraged them to go into business for themselves.
Marco recalled spending 30 to 45 minutes churning ice cream until it reached a smooth consistency.
“We were just turning and turning until the ice cream was made,” Marco said, adding that “it was a lot of work when we started but we’ve come a long way.”
They started off with only three barrels but it was enough to start a catering business.
Thanks to word of mouth and a lot of hard work, not to mention a soft and sweet flavor, the brothers have now branched out into their business, La Garrafa Nieve Artesanal, which includes an established location and, of course, a food truck.
Marco, 24, credits his grandparents for the success of the business.
Although the brothers are from Pharr, their ice cream shop is located in Mission where they’ve continued to find ways to make their product better.
Marco explained that after two years of owning the shop and their ice cream, continuing to grow in popularity, they’ve had to shift from making each ice cream by hand to now using motors to churn the ice cream.
“It’s been a journey,” Marco said with a laugh. “At first it was only me and my brother … between both of us where we would make the ice cream and we would serve the ice cream to everyone.”
Now the business has a team of eight people who help produce and serve ice cream.
But the team wasn’t the only thing that grew since the opening of the shop.
When Marco and Michael first began their business they had a total of six flavors, which included mango, lime, chamoy, coconut, Oreo and Gansito ice cream.
Now, they have a total of about 15 flavors that include both water-based and dairy-based ice creams.
Marco explained that they arrive each morning around 9 a.m. to begin making the ice cream so that they are ready to open the store at 1 p.m.
He explained that although they have motors now to help with the churning, the process still takes about 30-45 minutes.
“A lot of people choose us between our competition because of the flavor,” Marco said. “Because we use natural flavors and once you taste the ice cream you can taste the difference between our ice cream and someone else’s ice cream.”
He added that in all their water-based ice cream, they use the actual fruit to give it a natural flavor.
In fact, according to Marco, their most popular flavor is their mango ice cream.
“A lot of people like putting chamoy, Miguelito and stuff like Trechas and it’s the perfect combination,” Marco said.
Although he agrees mango is a great flavor, Marco prefers their watermelon-flavored ice cream because of its refreshing taste.
So far, summer has been good for business, likely due to the heat wave. Marco also attributes the refreshing fruit flavors for that success.
“Overall we just get a lot more traffic,” he said, adding that throughout the summer they’ve doubled their sales.
Although they have opened their own location and are doing well, they haven’t not forgotten where they came from. Marco and Michael, who’s 21, continue to cater events even now.
La Garrafa is located at 308 N. Shary Road in Mission and is open from 1 to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.