Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream opened its eighth shop on Friday, June 2, in Columbia City (with free ice cream for kids, yum). A new Molly Moon's is a perk to any neighborhood, of course; but this particular opening signifies an important change in how one of Seattle’s most well-known companies does business.
The new shop, located at 4822 Rainier Ave. S, was specifically designed to look how the original space did in the 1930s. Inside, there’s a brightly hued mural designed by local artists Craig Cundiff and Ari Glass and inspired by the neighborhood — look for the portraits of three well-known south Seattle residents (choreographer Jessica Hu and photographers and videographers Harry Clean and Jordan Nicholson).
“I wanted to create a multigenerational gathering place that was about making people happy,” says the company’s founder Molly Moon Neitzel. “But my goal has also been to try to run a profitable business in a really socially responsible way.”
What this means to Neitzel: offering free health care, paid family leave (12 weeks at 100 percent pay after one year of employment) and fair living wages to her more than 200 employees. But that’s not enough, she says.
“I recently realized [that] to be a social justice leader in a small business space, I also needed to stop being colorblind to our workforce’s racial makeup,” she says, noting that it wasn’t really an “a-ha moment” as much as a dawning realization. First step: Stage a company-wide equity audit.
Neitzel hired a team of attorneys to examine her company’s human resource policies and practices; at the end of 2016, they provided the company with seven recommendations about becoming a more equitable business and employer — including a recommendation to diversify and expand the company’s applicant pool. In the seven months since, Neitzel says Molly Moon’s has been busy implementing them through such measures as having all employees go through equity training to learn about implicit bias and cross-cultural communication.
The Columbia City store is a testament to these changes, Neitzel says. “We went about hiring in a completely different way,” she says of both staffing the new store and hiring for the summer.
The old hiring system involved posting to Craigslist, hanging “We’re Hiring” signs, asking for referrals from current employees and, Neitzel says, “hoping for the best.” “But this style perpetuates us hiring the same kinds of people from the same neighborhoods and the same backgrounds,” she says.
She wanted to change that, to have more people of color on staff than the percentage of people of color who live in Seattle (an estimated 33 to 34 percent). To achieve that goal, Molly Moon’s worked with 50 local organizations including the South East Effective Development (SEED), Casa Latina and the Gender Justice League to share Molly Moon’s job postings and recruit candidates.
“Before we hired for summer, 27 percent of our staff were people of color,” Neitzel says. “We’re still finishing up our hiring, but I’m pretty sure we’ve met our goal.”
The way the company ran interviews changed, too. Every interview is now done by a two-person team, says Neitzel. After applicants leave interviews, the hiring team brings up bias possibilities to see which were at play. “For example, someone might say, ‘I totally see where you were coming from when you asked that during the interview, but I think bias may be coming into play because of…’” says Neitzel, referencing the company-wide equity training.
These practices are here to stay, adds Neitzel, who hopes to open one or two more shops next summer including one in south Seattle. “I’m working hard on finding space in Renton,” she says, crediting customers for the idea. “They said Renton was cool and I fell in love with it, too.”