Frankie & Jo’s, Hot Cakes
Photography: Brandon Scott Herrell & AJ Ragasa
When I first met Autumn Martin, she was handing me a banana stuffed with smoked chocolate chips, cooked in tinfoil on a campfire in Joshua Tree. This initial encounter was a sneak peak into her sweet spot for flavors and desire to experience the world. Autumn spends many of her days in Winnie, her VW Bus, scouring the west coast for waves. Last week she dog sat for me while surfing and next week, she’s bike-packing the Olympic Adventure Trail. But this is just one layer of the soon-to-be mom. Autumn is also half of the wildly popular Frankie & Jo’s, a vegan and gluten free ice cream shop, and Hot Cakes, an all organic dessert company, all based in Seattle. To get a sense for her flavor palette, let’s consider California Cabin- “The smoked vanilla bean, fir and black pepper with cardamom – the combination creates such an unexpected flavor that works so well, and truly plops you in the woods of California, in a cabin, in the fall. That’s the thing - ice cream is a universal language, and is such an amazing vehicle for nostalgia and can really speak the language of emotions.”
If you’ve ever asked for neighborhood tips in the store, we’ve almost certainly sent you to Frankie and Jo’s on Union Ave. We are consistently blown away with their creativity in flavor creation, while staying true to being 100% vegan and gluten free. For Autumn, this drive for dietary inclusion is personal, stretching from her childhood all the way through her formal culinary education. “In culinary school, I discovered I was allergic to dairy. This. Was. Tragic. It was 2001, and there was no alternative to butter and cream in culinary school! I was not about to let a dairy allergy crush my dreams. I started to get eczema, which prompted another food allergy test and wasn’t surprised when my results came back very high. This was enough to make me commit to going dairy-free for good. I saw immediate results. My dairy-free journey began. In my adulthood, I have really gone deep into nutrition and health, trying many different modes of healing, going to herbalism school, studying, experimenting.”
Frankie and Jo’s has grown in the past two years, opening stores in West Seattle and more recently, in University Village. Growth can be a challenge for a creative business. Autumn and her business partner have weighed heavily how to preserve the creativity and charm, while expanding to new markets.
“I am constantly learning how to best accomplish both of these – keeping quality high and the spirit alive. It’s a balance that requires a lot of energy! It has been a deep learning experience to release the control to others, and to be soft and compassionate to others’ journey in growth. When people wear the quality hat in a business, each person has to leave their ego at the door, and do what it takes to put out the best product, which can mean tossing a huge batch if it’s not the right texture, or diving deep to develop until the recipe is undeniably amazing. Ultimately, I work around people who get excited about growing, and pushing themselves to learn. All the work to maintain quality is worth it when we have a community of customers who trust the work we do. It’s the best feeling.”
Maybe some of the magic behind Autumn’s businesses is they seem to honestly come from her heart. What drives someone to devote their career to making sweet things? Family is a big part of that for Autumn. “ It goes back to my childhood, where ice cream in particular held such a sacred place in our family. We always had ice cream after dinner. It was comforting, it was our way.” Nostalgia for family is a theme throughout Autumn’s life, from her business, to her home. It’s plain to see that her cherished memories from childhood are some of the inspiration for her drive and creativity. We photographed Autumn at home. A home she renovated with her dad, who tragically and suddenly passed in 2018. Her space was noticeably intentional. Autumn created a rich sense of comfort and sanctuary in her little home, largely needing to overcome the connection she felt between the house and the loss of her father.
“I spent the second half of 2018 slowly unpacking and making this house my home, filling it with antiques and family heirlooms. The more I have lived in it, the more it smells like me, and feels like home. My dad was a finish carpenter, and built the house I grew up in, so remodeling this house was in my blood. I wanted the house to feel like a cabin in the woods, so that when you entered, you forget you’re in the city. Lots of wood, a wood burning stove too. The décor is simple, earthy, minimal. I like reminders of the natural world around me, and not a lot on the walls. You’ll find collected wood, stones, crystals. Feathers, herbs, trees. Much has changed in the last couple of years, this house has grown into a cozy home, filled with heart and earth.”
Autumn is knee deep in the next phase of her family history. She and her partner, Barry, are expecting their first child. Amazingly, she’s devoted to continually seeking the rich life experience that has fed her life and career up to now. “For someone who is always striving and searching, it feels damn good to just BE JOYFUL and present, with a lot of grace for myself. I care less what others think about me. My body is getting rounder. My edges are softer. I don’t feel in a rush for anything. I am just savoring all of this goodness and bliss, it’s pure magic! Otherwise, not much has changed in my life except I eat more, am not drinking, and the surfing is getting trickier the larger I get.”