Lokal Artisan Foods owner Charisse McGill has partnered with Cloud Cups ice cream founder Galen Thomas to create a French Toast Bites Gelato, which is currently available at several locations in Philadelphia.
McGill, 39, is a Temple graduate who started her business after an investment from her daughter’s lemonade stand. She expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic, partnering with companies like Yards, Doylestown Brewing Co., and Bean2Bean Coffee Company to reach a wider audience with her signature bite-sized snacks.
Thomas and McGill met through a mutual friend and the two quickly wanted to collaborate, testing out recipes for the gelato using McGill’s French Toast Bites and signature spice mixture. The National Ice Cream Month celebration allows both Black-owned businesses to continue their recovery efforts after the public health crisis.
“French Toast Bites has evolved so much over the past few years from just being a street food,” McGill said. “During the onset and height of the pandemic, I had to partner and pivot our way through it by extending the product line. The energy behind the products have inspired new products, like now the gelato. I am proud to partner with a fellow Black-owned business.”
The French Toast Bites Gelato is available throughout July at Spruce Street Harbor Park, Cherry Street Pier, Pizza Brain, Manayunk Pizza, and Ashley’s Deli.
“Being able to create one-of-a-kind products with one-of-a-kind friends has always held a special place in my heart,” said Thomas. “(And) this new gelato with Charisse’s French Toast Bites is definitely something special. It’s made with real French Toast Bites.”
In addition to McGill’s signature sweet treats mixed directly into the recipe, French Toast Bites gelato is available in two different flavors – strawberry and stracciatella. It’s comes served in scoops, cones and pints, and can also be purchased online.
The flavors mirror the most popular ways customers typically enjoy McGill’s French Toast Bites, with strawberry and chocolate infused into the gelato recipes.
McGill, who graduated from St. Joseph’s Haub School of Business in May with an MBA in Food Marketing, has been expanding her small business since she started it more than three years ago.
After debuting French Toast Bites at the Made in Philadelphia Market, she began selling the spice mixture in 2019, which is now sold in several grocery stores.
Though McGill was upset by the news of the first COVID-19 lockdowns, 2020 was anything but ordinary for her business. She helped organize and became the first paid vendor on Black and Mobile, a Black-owned food delivery app.
She hosted pop-ups and sent out direct deliveries with Better Box when her typical farmers’ market and outdoor street fair lineup wasn’t available.
McGill was also one of 60 people to earn a grant from Black People Eats. She later became the first Black female operator at Spruce Street Harbor Park, which houses one of French Toast Bites two brick-and-mortar locations.
The summer 2020 protests throughout Philadelphia earned Lokal Artisan Foods more than $34,000 in grants, forgivable loans, and other donations between June 15 and the end of September 2020, the Philadelphia Business Journal Reported.