"Things have gotten lost because of our busy lives, and ice cream is a vehicle for bringing people together."

Famed chef James Beard once said, “Food is our common ground, a universal experience,” a belief Eric Polite ’97 has embraced in Soulmade, a funky, urban gelateria slated to open in Charlotte, N.C., this summer.

Polite describes Soulmade as a “movement that’s about food, music, and culture.” He says, “Things have gotten lost because of our busy lives, and ice cream is a vehicle for bringing people together. Ice cream in itself is a nostalgic thing.”

Made by hand, Polite’s gelato will feature combinations like chocolate jalapeno, tequila lime, and honey lavender, inspired by a project Polite conducted at the Gordon School in Providence, R.I., where he is director of diversity. After a visit to Ben and Jerry’s, Polite asked students what flavors they would create. “I got everything from obscure to crazy,” he says, “but I started thinking about flavors I would invent and things I enjoyed as a child. Two of my favorites were sweet potato pie and banana pudding.”

Polite debuted his sweet potato pie ice cream at a cookout, and it was a hit, as it was at Homecoming last year.

Inspired, Polite traveled to Italy to enhance his gelato-making skills under the tutelage of a master gelato maker. While this may seem a long way for Polite to go to make his flavors “authentic,” he has traveled farther for a cause.

While at Bucknell, he traveled to Tanzania to provide healthcare, electricity, and running water to remote villages. As a senior, he worked in the International Education Office, inspiring other students of color to travel abroad. But it was Polite’s desire to play Division I basketball that drew this Charlotte native to Bucknell.

After graduating in 1997, Polite worked for two years as the interim director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs before pursuing his M.Ed. in higher education administration at the University of Maryland.

Bucknell, Polite says, is the place where he found his voice, which resonates through Soulmade’s four essential values: culture, comfort, consciousness, and creativity. He says the management skills he learned working at Bucknell coupled with the team ethic garnered through playing Bison basketball have given him the confidence to venture into a new “sweet spot,” where Italian ice cream will meet hip-hop karaoke in a chic, eclectic place that’s Soulmade.

Posted Spring 2008

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