How does a girl with an architecture degree build a wildly successful dessert empire? Just ask Natasha Case, who, along with her friend Freya Estreller, started Coolhaus back in 2009. If the name sounds familiar, you’ve probably seen the brand’s tasty, pre-packaged ice cream cookie sandwiches sold at Whole Foods, Brentwood Country Mart’s Farmshop restaurant, and even Urban Outfitters, or you may have visited one of their two brick-and-mortar stores in Los Angeles.
Though Coolhaus also has a fleet of 13 trucks in four cities and they’re planning to expand across the country, their roots are firmly planted in Los Angeles. The brand opened their first storefront in Culver City, then a second one in Pasadena. “We felt it was on-brand to choose a neighborhood for our flagship that was up and coming, instead of already strongly established,” says Case. “We took a bet on the Arts District of Culver City, and it paid off. Because we took a risk, the rent is reasonable, parking happens to be very easy, and Culver City doesn’t sound too far away from anywhere. Lastly, there are a ton of architects and artists in the neighborhood, so that’s a great audience for our brand and product.”
Of course, Case is deeply interested and engaged with the architecture community. After all, her background in design helped inform the brand’s product: ice cream novelties that not only look like miniature “houses” but also pay tribute to famous architects. “A key part of our brand positioning is building awareness about design and architecture,” says Case. “The punny names call out our favorite architects like Mies Vanilla Rohe (chocolate chip and Tahitian vanilla bean) or Cara-Mia Lehrer (snickerdoodle and salted caramel), and movements like Mintimalism (double chocolate and dirty mint chip). The names are a way to make design fun and approachable, and for everyone to feel like an ‘insider.’ As a former architect myself, I am able to create the visual identity for the brand first-hand: packaging, website design, marketing collateral, merchandising, and more, so there is an authenticity with the look and feel of the brand.”
So where does Case go when she needs design inspiration for Coolhaus? “I think a good drive can actually work wonders for design inspiration—seeing the buildings fall into perspective on Wilshire near Robertson, the strange exterior collage of the garages and gates on PCH in Malibu, the single-story retail charm along Washington where our shop is,” she says. “Los Angeles is so dynamic and diverse in its landscape and the way the architecture interacts.” In fact, Case describes California architecture as “a landscape of fantasy,” where all bets are off. “So many architects come to California, specifically LA, to design in a city where there’s no snow, rain, cold vernacular to deal with,” she explains. “It’s an open playing field. And while there are obviously codes and other natural disasters to consider, like earthquakes, the freedom has contributed to radical styles in some cases (some of the Eric Owen Moss buildings in Culver City), but also a more simple embracing of light, geometry, and space that is seemingly uncomplicated but at once some of the most sophisticated design, like Mark Mack’s work in Venice Beach or Neutra’s stunning Kaufmann Palm Springs residence.”
When Case isn’t thinking about the design aspect of her business, she’s focused on what’s next for Coolhaus. Already, she’s seen how customer’s tastes have changed since Coolhaus first started. “There’s a desire for more complex flavor, not just sweet-on-sweet,” she says. “People are willing, in general, to experiment a lot more. The brand knows no limits as long as we are talking quality of ingredients, premium product, sustainable sourcing, unique flavors, and a strong design sensibility, particularly related to packaging and merchandising,” she says. “We’re brainstorming candy, chocolate, cookies, beverages, and even a home and lifestyle brand even farther down the line.”
Sounds pretty sweet to us! Visit Coolhaus in Culver City at 8588 Washington Blvd.