Growing up in the coastal city of Auckland, New Zealand, Matty Harris frothed to be outdoors and on his bike. The terrain was minimal—a mere 30 meters of elevation separates town from its surrounding sandy-dirt forests—but it was enough to catch the bug for riding.
Big descents were nowhere to be found for Harris and his buddies, so instead they practiced corners by drifting sideways through slippery pine needles. Before long, his hobby became a passion.
In the ensuing years of mountain biking, the brown hair, blue-eyed Kiwi began to cherish something else that came with the pastime: Bumbling down old country roads—some barely wide enough to fit two cars—lined with fields made up of neat rows of strawberries on his way to a trailhead. After an afternoon of fun with his family on their bikes, they’d often cap off rides by stopping for real fruit ice cream on the drive home.
“The option was simple, you either had ice cream or you didn’t,” he said, remembering the local berry farms that usually offered only one size and one flavor. Their ingredients and technique were simple, fresh berries blended with local dairy. The delicious ice cream left a lasting impression on Harris.
Years later, Harris met Katie Youwe, a Canadian who shared his passion for the outdoors. After a few years living in New Zealand, the couple returned to British Columbia and moved to Squamish together in 2014. They quickly took to the town’s plethora of trails, but Harris missed his childhood tradition of gathering with friends after a mountain bike ride to relive corners railed, jumps cleared, and rocks rolled while enjoying fresh, real fruit ice cream. Squamish’s most famous activities, its rock climbing, kayaking, trail running, and mountain biking, all require physical exertion, and everything tastes better after you’ve earned it, Harris thought. Besides, what better way to integrate yourselves into your new town than by opening a small business with a goal of fostering connections and community?
Together, the couple decided they would bring a slice of New Zealand to B.C. The idea for Alice and Brohm Ice Cream was born and, in 2017, they officially opened for business in an unconventional space: a 1972 Boler trailer. In fact, even before Harris and Youwe decided on ice cream, they knew they wanted to build a business that operated out of a Boler.
“We didn’t know what we wanted to do,” Harris said. “We just knew we wanted it to be out of a Boler—a true piece of Canadiana.”
They bought their Boler over the 2016 Canada Day long weekend on Vancouver Island, towing the slightly dilapidated relic behind their Toyota Matrix and onto the ferry in Nanaimo. Back in Squamish, and within a few weeks, Harris and Youwe had already promised a friend that they’d have the Boler restored and ready to serve at a wedding in September. With a firm deadline, the couple spent most of the summer stripping down, rebuilding, and customizing the trailer to be a fully functioning shop on wheels, complete with an authentic ice cream machine from New Zealand.
“We had the Boler just sitting on the side of the road, with a full-on renovation happening,” Harris said. For months the trailer sat with floors removed, fiberglass in various states of repair, saws strewn about, and seven extension cords running across their lawn to power tools and equipment.
“Someone would have it shut down in no time with complaints these days,” Youwe said, remembering her months-long DIY project on the street. “Not something you could do in Squamish anymore.”
Many days passed when, instead of riding, the couple labored over a bench installation or tedious electrical work, but with the wedding looming on the horizon they had no choice but to stay on track. Eventually, their hard work paid off, culminating in a successful showing at the September wedding, then followed by numerous requests to serve up ice cream at other gatherings.
Their momentum was complicated, at first, when Harris received a job offer to manage a trailbuilding crew. Undeterred, Youwe kept the business moving forward by herself, even while Harris worked off-the-grid for three weeks out of every month. In the ensuing years, she honed, managed, and refined the business. Before long, Alice and Brohm was serving at the Squamish Farmers’ Market, then at the bottom of the Diamond Head trail network.
Their strategic placement at a common exit point from one of Squamish’s most well-known trail zones represented another step forward for Youwe and Harris as they sought to create a community around their business. Here, riders would hoot and holler down Mamquam Road after finishing a lap on the trails, then turn onto Village Drive where they’d find a cute Boler with a cheerful couple doling out the best ice cream in town.
It was a hit—and not just for mountain bikers. The location quickly became a place where riders mingled with dog walkers, where trail runners and hikers snacked side by side with students from nearby Quest University. A sense of community began to form around the little teal trailer.
As Alice and Brohm grew, Harris and Youwe built a rapport with their berry and dairy suppliers, the companies responsible for delivering their ingredients, and those who worked to promote and operate their business. An emphasis on local relationships quickly proved valuable—the local Squamish business community rallied together to find freezer space to prevent Alice and Brohm from losing thousands of dollars of ingredients when their freezer broke on a hot summer afternoon.
Harris and Youwe eventually moved from the Boler into a flagship location at the corner of Diamond Head Road and Mamquam Road. With Harris’ trailbuilding contract wrapped up, Alice and Brohm could finally become a fulltime priority for both of them. As they buckled down and renovated their new space, they made sure to continue investing in the best local berries from farms in the Fraser Valley to ensure a top-quality product. Today, all their berries and ice cream come from within a 100-kilometer radius of Squamish.
It hasn’t always been easy. In only six years of existence, the effects of climate change have already directly impacted Alice and Brohm’s business. In November 2021, the Fraser Valley experienced its largest flood in decades. The atmospheric river dropped 300 millimeters (almost 12 inches) of rain in 48 hours which combined with a rapidly melting snowpack in the mountains to leave most of the valley underwater for weeks. Farms were hit hard, and the folks at Alice and Brohm used their network to get help for those in need. Increasing droughts, along with rising average summertime temperatures, have also ruined some berry crops in recent years.
“We can use these experiences to communicate the effect that local weather events have on customers’ ice cream orders,” Harris said, who hopes to use the situation to educate folks on how small businesses in B.C. are not immune to the impacts of a warming planet. On this scale, it brings the issue out of the periphery and into the focal point of people’s lives. It’s yet another way Alice and Brohm goes beyond just serving up treats.