Bethesda Row’s newest sweet treat: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream


Lexi Fleck

Wildberry Lavender is a very popular flavor at Jeni’s; it’s made with blueberries, citrus and lavender.

By Lexi Fleck

Jeni Britton Bauer was halfway through college at Ohio State University when she realized that she should incorporate her passion for art history into something bigger — she loved learning, but she thought the school environment wasn’t exciting enough for her. 

While working at an indoor farmers market in 1996, Jeni learned about seasonal ingredients, customer service and the dairy business. Jeni began mixing ice cream with different extracts peppermint from Oregon, rose petal from Bulgaria, vanilla from Madagascar and discovered that she was onto something special. 

To create her first flavor combination she found chocolate ice cream in her freezer and mixed it with cayenne essential oil the taste relished in her mouth. 

“I can’t help but create ice cream flavors out of anything,” Jeni said. “It’s the lens I look through. When I’m listening to music or reading a book, before I know it, I could discover a new type of flavor.”

Growing up in Ohio, Jeni always liked making and selling things. She liked having the power to create her own future, she said. After seeing the warm reception from friends and family that her ice cream flavors received, she decided to take a risk and drop out of college to open her own ice cream shop.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream opened its first shop in 2002 in Columbus, Ohio and has since expanded to now have over two dozen locations around the country. 

“I am okay with being responsible for my failures and successes,” Jeni said. “As an entrepreneur, you have to be that way. It takes dedication.”

Lexi Fleck
Customers line up to order ice cream at the new Bethesda Jeni’s location.

The ice cream brand opened a branch on Elm Street in Bethesda Row on Nov. 22. Jeni’s team wants to open their shops in places with main street cultures, neighborhood communities and many families — they look for downtown locations where there’s a lot to do on a Friday night. When they want to open another location, someone on their team will look at the area and see if it would be a good fit. Bethesda looked ideal, Jeni said. 

Senior Arielle Klein started working at Jeni’s in November, and loves it because she loves ice cream and wants everyone to experience good quality ice cream, she said. 

“Jeni’s has a homey, personal feeling,” Klein said. “A big focus is on service and personal connections, both with customers and colleagues. We still maintain that feeling even though it’s now a bigger chain.”

 At Jeni’s, the ice cream flavors range from Boozy Eggnog and Cold Brew with Coconut Cream to Frose Sorbet and Gooey Butter Cake. The staff at Jeni’s uses tedious and unique ways to make the taste as flavorful as possible. For example, to make one of the most popular flavors, Salted Caramel, they caramelize the sugar in a copper kettle over a fire in their kitchens.

“Ice cream is an art form and it’s supposed to be beautiful,” Jeni said. “You can tell so many stories through ice cream — of people, history, culture or traditions. That is why we make sure our process is so special.”

Beyond Jeni’s characteristic product, as a female entrepreneur, she’s intentional about each aspect of the supply chain from farm to cone. 

Jeni’s team prioritizes partnering with women and minority-owned companies, including a female-owned winery in Napa.

“Our company is 70% women,”  Jeni said. “We don’t just believe in having diversity in our company — we believe in equality.’

Another priority for the franchise is sustainability. Jeni’s has reusable taster spoons and compostable bowls and napkins. Additionally, all her ingredients are sourced from local farmers in Ohio. After 22 years, Jeni is still working with the same farmers as when she began because she loves the fusion they create, she said.

“Everyone we work with brings their own awesomeness,” Jeni said. “Individually the dairy farmers, vanilla growers and whiskey distillers are great, but together we all create something bigger.”

Although the ice cream shop opened at the end of fall, the colder weather hasn’t stopped ice cream lovers from buying Jeni’s.

Senior Kate Lamkin, a Jeni’s employee, said that Jeni’s has been doing well since its opening. When the weather gets warmer, the shop expects larger crowds and longer lines. 

Jeni still has the same passion and creativity since her beginning. She still feels the same exhilaration as she did when creating her first combination of scents and ice cream.

“Ice cream flavors are almost like seeing a live band,” Jeni said. “Every time you eat it, it’s slightly different because it’s handmade.” 


Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream is located at 4918 Elm St, Bethesda, MD 20814. Hours are 11:00 am-10:00 pm.