Jonathan Rucker was born and raised in Ponchatoula and has a strong sense of community. Rucker has recently created a brand of ice cream known as Sweet Magnolia Ice Cream that has gained popularity over Southern Louisiana.
Rucker says that he never intended for his ice cream brand to become “this big.” And that he was inspired to name his ice cream brand Sweet Magnolia because he remembers as a child, breaking a flower off of his grandmother’s magnolia tree. Rucker said, “You could break one [flower] off of the tree and the smell and aroma that the magnolia gives off is such a sweet aroma, what better name than Sweet Magnolia?”
Rucker said he began the ice cream business when his friend was making pralines. They collaborated by creating a praline ice cream, and decided to sell it at a trade day in Ponchatoula. Rucker says that he never knew anything about ice cream and only just started to eat it in High School. Rucker says “I kind of thought of something and went with the ingredients that I use on a daily basis… different milks that I use, different sweeteners that I use, and that’s how Sweet Magnolia was born.”
“I honestly did not expect this to grow into a huge brand or anything. I just wanted to see if people liked it, and they loved it!” said Rucker.
Rucker says he loves the process of making the ice cream and seeing the reaction of the kids faces when they come into his store and pick the flavors. “When we first started doing this, I was selling it from my office and people began to hash tag ‘better than Blue Bell’ on social media.”
Rucker makes his ice cream in his family mart, Rucker’s Family Mart, in Ponchatoula. “People come in and hear the machines cranking and they know that they have some ice cream about to come up!” said Rucker.
Rucker’s Family Mart is an old convenient store that used to sell products such as tobacco and beer. Rucker says “I just didn’t like the vibe that it gave the community…I just had enough of it.”
Rucker says that when he started off with his ice cream company, he needed something to really brand his unique product. Rucker says, “What better way to brand it than to put me on it, I love everything about it. If you see me, I want you to see Sweet Magnolia. This happened about a month before I opened the store.”
Rucker said that at the beginning of June, he really started to brand his product with logos and packaging. He wants to take it to the next level, he says, by creating a sealed package to eliminate the chance of people tampering with the product before it has been bought.
Rucker says that the plans for his ice cream brand’s future are to prepare in the winter months to sell Sweet Magnolia to restaurants. “We’re going to try to be getting ready for this coming February, March to see where were going with it and make sure were ready for the next step,” said Rucker.
Rucker plans to get more employees and increase the productivity for his business. Right now, Rucker makes all of his ice cream. He says that he makes approximately 100 pints a day. He is now up to 15 flavors and knows he will soon need help with keeping up with his growing business.
“I don’t want to limit myself just to being in Ponchatoula,” Rucker says. With a product like he has, he wants people all over the country to experience his ice cream.
By next summer, Rucker says he wants to put his ice cream in other markets and in other states. He believes that in Louisiana, he has the toughest critics, so if he can make it here, he can make it anywhere.