Three months after my visit to the San Francisco Museum of Ice Cream, 10 plastic sprinkles shook loose from the inside of my shoe. On an otherwise bland day of adulting, the colorful little keepsakes were a welcome reminder to lighten up— one of the many take-home messages from the sugary-sweet rainbow wonderland.
The Museum set up shop on the corner of O’Farrell and Grant (in the old Emporio Armani building) last September and successfully sold out tickets through February. And while such sales would be impressive all on their own, the SF outpost was just one of several nationwide outposts of the irresistibly Instagrammable brand that’s been frequented by everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to Beyoncé.
That kind of business boom can’t be attributed to any sort of formulaic marketing or boardroom strategizing; rather, it’s the magical touch of its 25-year-old co-founder and creative director, Maryellis Bunn. “My work looks to change the way we conceptualize spaces,” the Laguna Beach native and Parsons graduate says. “As we evolve, the use and function of real estate must follow suit, yet it has not. My goal to is to design spaces for better lives for today and the future.”
Given the lasting impression she left on Bay Area kids big and small, we couldn’t help but wonder what kinds of sweet secrets the ice cream queen herself has to share.
Don’t be afraid of hard work. Bunn gets stuff done, and her turnaround time is impressive, to say the least. “From when I realized that I was crazy enough to put everything I had into the idea to when we opened our doors in New York City, it was only about 90 days,” she says. “We started as a small team of five; all of us had other jobs at the time. I worked 22-hour days, painted the walls, cleaned the floors, helped tile the pool, you name it. All five of us are now full-time and Team MOiC is almost 250 strong!”
Embrace your inner child. To gain entrance to the museum’s coveted contents, entrants must be prepared to leave their adult brains behind and adopt a childlike wonder Bunn considers key to the experience. “With so much going on in the world, I want to provide a place where people can check their fears and social norms at the door and have fun, first and foremost,” she says. “By creating spaces where people feel free to explore their creativity and imagination, the world I believe becomes a better place.”
Keep it casual. Bunn’s built a reputation on all things bright, bold and bursting with character, but her personal aesthetic is decidedly pared-down. “My style is effortless with intention,” she says. “Day-to-day attire has drastically changed in the last year as I spend most of my time on a construction site or in transit, landing me in jeans, shirts and monochrome sneakers.”
Express yourself. While the Museum of Ice Cream boasts all the social media-friendly bells and whistles (Rainbows! Unicorns! Sprinkles!), Bunn believes authenticity matters most, especially when it comes to designing your own space. “Your home should be a personal expression of yourself,” she emphasizes. “Don’t look at trends and what the market is dictating to design your space—create a home that feels most authentic to who you are. I think it’s important to find objects or items that have meaning to you. Do not be afraid to create!”
Home goods. Bunn’s East Coast quarters are similarly understated, drawing inspiration from First Dibs and Apartment Therapy’s Marketplace. “My New York City home is the polar opposite of Museum of Ice Cream’s design,” she says. “It is a peaceful, quiet space with a lot of white and neutrals.”
Dream bigger. While Bunn has certainly had her hands full with Museum matters, she’s already looking toward the future. I want to change the entire landscape and perception of spaces, build a city and continue to build teams,” she says. “I have a lot of work to do!”
Ice Cream Facts
There are approximately 80,000 ice cream, gelato and frozen yogurt shops in the U.S.
Winter is the most popular season for ice cream sales in Canada
In 1886, Mrs. Rorer’s Philadelphia Cook Book published America’s first recipe for fried ice cream
The Häagen-Dazs brand was invented in Brooklyn in 1961 and was established by two Americans. The name was made up to sound Danish. In fact, the umlaut (two dots) found over the first ‘a’ in Häagen is not even used in the Danish language.
The earliest versions of Neapolitan ice cream were made of green pistachio, white vanilla and red cherry ice cream and were made to resemble the Italian flag.