Julie Barker opened Buttercup Homemade Ice Creams & Chowders on April 3, last year at a space in the Nehalem Riverside Trading Company building located on Hwy 101 North going through Nehalem. You can’t miss it, it’s the big yellow building on the east side of he main-drag.
Barker has been in business in North County for 29 years, so she knows very well the struggles mom and pop shops face each week. But her recipe for success comes from a mixture of knowing the market, experience in her area of expertise and hard work.
“I have been wanting to do this style of restaurant for five years,” she said. “I know everybody, I do cater to the locals, that’s my number one focus.”
After listening to her clientele over the years, she decided to open a restaurant that focused on handcrafted chowders and Ice Cream offerings.
“What I’m making here really is artisan chowders, that’s really what it is, handcrafted,” Barker said. “As far as the Ice Cream, no one is doing homemade Ice Cream and we are the only ones pairing their Ice Cream with it’s own flavored cones.”
Since selling Bread & Ocean in Manzanita in November of 2014, Barker spent very little idle time.
“I have to be working,” she commented. “I can get into trouble if I don’t have something to do.”
This will be the third business Barker has developed in North Tillamook County during that last 29 years, starting with the Blue Sky Café and then Bread & Ocean, now Buttercup.
“I’m always trying to find a niche that hasn’t been filled in our area, so I came up with the idea for a small batch, seasonal, homemade, to-go only, ice cream/chowder shop,” Barker said “I will be making four different rotating seasonal chowders – a traditional Northwest clam chowder, maybe a spicy Thai-style seafood chowder, a non-dairy, coconut milk based sweet potato, black bean and corn or smoked chicken or smoked salmon or shrimp chowder; definitely a tomato-based Manhattan style or Cioppino, all made to order. No chowder sittin’ around.
The new shop has a freezer section to supply grab-n-go for both ice creams and chowders.
“My list of ice creams/sorbets/gelatos is long, but I plan on rotating nine or 10 seasonal varieties including non-dairy,” she commented. “I’ve had lots of suggestions, and volunteers for sampling and taste-testing. I plan on collaborating with anyone interested in a special ice cream each month. Let me know what you’d like to see.”
The homemade cones will also be available like chocolate-dipped graham cracker cone with marshmallow ice cream, prune-Armagnac in salted macaroon almond cone, local shiso-miso in green tea cone, and other interesting mixes like parmesan cone with tomato-basil ice cream or coconut carrot-habanero in blue corn cone.
Anyone like semifreddo? Buttercup is doing that too.
“Semifreddo is basically an ice cream terrine, layers of flavors of sorbets or gelatos we sell by the slice.”
Barker uses all local ingredients, sourced within 25 miles of Nehalem, including Bennett Family Farm milk, Misty Meadows eggs, CS Fishery seafood, local organic produce from R-evolution Gardens and local salt from Jacobsen Salt.
“Whatever can be sourced nearby is used,” Barker said. “I’ve had businesses in the area for decades and it is tourist –driven, but for me, it’s really all about the locals,” she said. “They are my most important customers. They keep me in business the other nine months of the year.”
Barker also keeps her focus on quality.
“When I first started in Manzanita there was a tavern, a grocery store, a few motels and a haunted restaurant across the street and that’s about it,” Barker reminisced. “The quality of people and businesses that have developed here are top-notch. I’m so excited to bring the best chowder and ice cream to Nehalem.”
Her plans for the future are huge. She said she wants to franchise along the coast and even sell her Ice Cream and Chowders in grocery stores.
“Now that we’ve been open for a while, I’m working on franchising and marketing the business,” she added. “Trying to make a living on the Oregon Coast is a struggle, but with passion, experience and vision, it can be done. I believe I have passion and vision.
I felt that anywhere I would be there would be a line out the door, let’s hope this is a success story, whether it will be well received — time will tell.”
Buttercup is located at 35915 Hwy 101 N in downtown Nehalem.