Ice cream made with regional fruit, produced by single mothers and audio impaired people, in an ice cream factory run by a Dutch once-upon-a-time traveler and a Peruvian veterinarian. Oh yes, Heladería Holanda offers an interesting story as well as arguably north Peru's best ice cream. While the Dutch like to profile themselves abroad with the color orange, there is no such bright distinction of the Heladería Holanda on Plaza de Armas in Cajamarca, a town located in the Andes Mountains of north Peru. Bright, colorful signboards and banners are not allowed in this part of the historic, close to 700-year-old city, which is a national monument.
But, once past the narrow entrance hall, orange-painted walls with posters featuring the Netherlands, and staff members wearing orange shirts and caps clearly state the owner's origin. Let's take a look around.
Meet Pim and Luz Marina
After Pim Heijser had left the Netherlands and lived in Ecuador for a while, he came to Peru. Here he fell in love, and stayed. Luz Marina Benzunce is a Peruvian veterinarian with a specialization in cows, milk, and milk products.
Their knowledge and work experience combined made them decide to start an ice cream parlor and factory about ten years ago. While Luz Marina is in charge of the operational side of the business, such as making the recipes and supervising quality control, Pim is the financial man and manager of the team.
Pim and Luz Marina buy the ingredients for their ice cream, including typical local fruits such as lucuma, from local farmers, following a Fair Trade philosophy. They stopped creating new recipes when they had twenty successful flavors, among which pisco and local berries called pushgay. As Pim explained, "If I add a new flavor, I’ll have to take out another one and invariable I’ll get an unhappy customer who is missing his/her favorite flavor.” Local dairy, local fruits, dedicated workers and a creative mind inventing unique recipes have all contributed to the creation of a series of delicious ice creams.
Meet the Workers: Single Mothers and Audio Impaired People
But there is more to this story. Apart from running a profitable business, Pim and Luz Marina decided to not only focus on hiring single mothers, but took on a social project as well: working with deaf people. There are eight deaf people working in their factory and ice cream parlors.
Word has gone around, and deaf people from other cities have moved to Cajamarca because they heard there might be jobs for them. In Peru deaf people are still underdogs and many stay at home, hidden away.
Pim tries to find work for them through his contacts with the Chamber of Commerce. “It is no sure thing,” he says. “Even if I can convince the boss to employ a deaf person, he or she then has to be accepted by co-workers, who are totally unfamiliar with working with a deaf person, and may not be interested at all.”
The Basics: Eduacation
In many ways Pim and Luz Marina have run a successful business, helping teach sign language and organizing community events. They now run seven ice cream parlors in the city and have been asked to expand to other cities as well. However, "Small is beautiful," is Pim's answer. He and Luz Marina realize that their success is largely a result of dedication, of being there every single day. Expanding may jeopardize everything they stand for. So, for the time being, to support this beautiful work and of course to indulge in a lucuma, sauco, or pisco ice cream, you'll have to head for Cajamarca.