Crosby, Minn.

By Maria Surma Manka | Photography by John Linn

It’s usually not a good sign when a customer cries. But at Victual (, a gourmet food shop in downtown Crosby that makes its own super-premium, lactose-free ice cream, more than one customer has wept tears of joy. “We have lactose-intolerant customers literally in tears because they can eat ice cream for the first time in 20 years,” said Paul Kirkman, owner and president of Victual. “It’s such an emotional thing.”

With few options for specialty foods in Greater Minnesota, Victual has found a niche selling gourmet foodstuffs, including artisan cheeses, charcuterie and specialty spirits. Kirkman worked with the Small Business Development Center at Central Lakes College and the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corporation (BLAEDC) to bring Victual to life. A financing package that leverage’s BLAEDC’s Unified Fund is being serviced by the Initiative Foundation.

Soon after opening Victual last summer, Kirkman and his husband, Paul VanderWaal, realized that their ice cream brand, Rave Creamworks, was going to be Victual’s biggest star. The idea for the product came about because VanderWaal is lactose intolerant and wasn’t able to join in Kirkman’s family tradition of making homemade ice cream. So, Kirkman set out to create a lactose-free ice cream that was also delicious. “I am really, really picky about ice cream!” said Kirkman. “What I make has to be absolutely fantastic; the feel of it, the melt of it, everything. I have a very high bar.”

We sat down with Kirkman to get the scoop on Victual.

  • FOOD SCHOOL Kirkman was committed to being knowledgeable about his products, so he enrolled in the University of Wisconsin’s Ice Cream Makers Short Course and the Cheese School of San Francisco.
  • FAT FACTS What makes an ice cream “super-premium?” Butter fat. Rave Creamworks ice cream contains a high butter fat content that gives it an especially creamy texture. Rave’s base mix is made at a small dairy farm in Forest Lake where ingredients are blended, pasteurized and bottled. These base packages are delivered to Victual, where the ice cream is turned and flavored on site.
  • GUT INSTINCT Lactose is a sugar molecule in milk products. An enzyme in our gut, lactase, breaks down lactose into sugars that can be digested. If someone’s gut doesn’t have lactase, they are lactose intolerant and may feel bloated, crampy or nauseous after consuming a milk product. To avoid the lactose problem, Rave adds the lactase enzyme to its ice cream. The enzyme then breaks down the lactose into sugar so that it can be digested by everyone.
  • TASTE TESTS Rave offers an ever-changing roster of 16 flavors. Oreo and snickerdoodle are year-round favorites. Seasonal offerings such as white chocolate peppermint and lemon maple ginger fly off scoopers and freezer shelves.
  • SUPERIOR STOCK Victual’s products fall into six categories: Ice cream, cheese, charcuterie, gourmet, gifts and spirits. Victual has one of the largest bean-to-bar chocolate selections in Minnesota.
  • GO LOCAL Victual avoids mass-produced home goods and gifts, preferring instead to source from local artists that make unique items, such as iron-forged cheese knives and ceramic ware that resembles birch bark.
  • SPIRITED Victual has Minnesota’s smallest stand-alone liquor store, which includes wines from family-owned vineyards, spirits from small distilleries and liqueurs. “Liqueurs are almost ignored in liquor stores in Greater Minnesota,” explained Vickman. “We carry liqueurs that have an interesting backstory, such as medicinal uses or originating from a distillery tended by monks.

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