Funkee’s Café – Sustainability with a side of Gelato


Funkee’s Café – Sustainability with a side of Gelato

By Anthony Gilbreath, Caelus Consulting

Marion, AR / August 1, 2017 / 3BL Media - Funkee’s Café (Funkee’s) opened its doors in Marion, Arkansas in October of 2015.  Funkee’s was founded by business owner, Mary Singer.  The cafe serves a wide range of delicious and authentic Italian delicacies, such as Gelato and gourmet coffees as well as a variety of freshly made locally grown herbs for salads and deli sandwiches.   

Funkee’s is a meeting place for the community.  Local residents celebrate birthdays, baby showers, networking events and luncheons in the Events Room.  In response to strong demand, Funkee’s opened a food truck this summer to make it possible for more people to enjoy their popular lunch offerings.


One of Mary’s inspirations for opening Funkee’s was the significant Italian American heritage of Arkansas.  Italian Americans have maintained a presence since the nineteenth century in the state and have had a consistent and significant impact on the economic and cultural development in the region.  Mary wanted to connect to that heritage by offering genuine and authentic Italian delicacies she came to love after years of business trips to Italy.  Wandering the cities of Italy, she developed fond memories of sampling the local cuisine. “When I was in Italy, I found it impossible not to try the delicious local food.  When I opened Funkee’s, I wanted to bring that wonderful experience to Marion.”

Funkee’s offers Italian specialty coffees, rich Gelato and light meals made from fresh, local suppliers.  “We’re not a chain,” Singer said. “We’re local. Our employees are local. Our purpose is to serve the local community.” Authenticity was also a top priority.  She purchased the equipment needed to produce authentic Italian Gelato and New Orleans shaved ice.    

Community Involvement

From day one, Funkee’s has been an active participant in the community.  Mary has made it into a gathering place for both sustainability and environmental organizations in the region.  In 2016, Funkee’s hosted the first Arkansas meeting of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) for the Arkansas/Mississippi/Tennessee region (a chapter Mary launched in 2014).  Also in 2016, Funkee’s hosted an Arkansas Recycling Coalition (ARC) meeting. ARC promotes and supports innovative recycling, reuse and waste reduction practices in the Arkansas business community.  Mary received the “ARC 2016 Community Involvement Award” for the event and for her active participation in the organization.    

CurrentState™ Restaurant Sustainability Audit

In July of 2016, Funkee’s decided to conduct the CurrentState™ Restaurant sustainability audit. “We wanted to make sure we were being as sustainable as possible”, says Mary. “We were making sustainable and local food purchases whenever possible, but we knew that there was more that we could be doing.”

CurrentState™ Restaurant provides a comprehensive audit of five key food service sustainability categories: operations, facilities, waste management, food safety and state health department regulations.  The audit compares an establishment’s policies, procedures and practices in these areas to industry best practices.  Once the survey has been completed, a Finding Report is created.  The report scores the restaurant’s performance in each category, identifies which practices they are doing well and where opportunities for improvement exist.  The Findings Report includes a detailed task list that can be used as a ‘sustainability improvement plan’.  

“We were very pleased with the CurrentState™ process. It was easy to complete and we received our report within a week.  We now have a crystal-clear understanding of what things we need to do to become more sustainable,” says Mrs. Singer.

Some of Funkee’s best practices the audit identified include:

  • using a start-up and shut-down schedule for the HVAC system.  The schedule conserves energy through seasonal temperature adjustments.
  • recycling all cardboard and plastic containers.  The number of milk containers needed to make gelato created a potentially significant waste stream.
  • deciding not to serve fried foods.  The lack of fried foods makes their menu healthier and reduces their food preparation waste stream.

“In addition to letting us know where we were doing well, the audit provided a menu of activities we could do to improve our sustainability across the entire restaurant that we hadn’t even considered,” says Mrs. Singer.

New actions Funkee’s has taken because of the audit include:

  • implementing new ways to reduce food waste.  They have reached out to ARC to identify more practices they can use.
  • growing their own herbs in a garden in front of the restaurant.
  • implementing a regular schedule for grease trap maintenance.
  • using additional screens for three compartment sink drains to catch as much food waste as possible and keeping pipes clear.

In Conclusion

Offering local foods on the menu is the beginning point for becoming a more sustainable restaurant.  However, sustainable practices are needed in all areas of operations to be a sustainability leader.  Community involvement, waste reduction, food safety and efficient operations are critical components of running a sustainable establishment.  Funkee’s is well on its way to becoming a sustainability leader in its community due to its actions within its community and its excellent sustainability practices. 

About Funkee’s Cafe

Funkee’s Café is located in Marion, Arkansas.  Funkee’s serves Italian gelato, gourmet coffees, authentic New Orleans shaved ice and a variety of fresh deli sandwiches.  Funkee’s was founded by local businesswoman Mary Singer in 2015. 

Mary Singer – Owner
Telephone: +1 (870) 559-4072



Gelato…Shoes…and Marion, Arkansas: The Italian Connection…

Buying shoes…it’s got many a woman in trouble. In my case, though, it’s not the local BOGO sales—it’s Italy. Husband Peter and I went annually to Italy for fourteen years, buying shoes. It was a business thing, a personal thing. “Good” shoes you can get anywhere. Great shoes you can find made in several countries—England, the USA, Canada, and more. Superior shoes, the finest shoes, shoes of the most superb craftsmanship…For those, give me Italy. Select leathers, perfectly tanned, luxuriously finished…lasting and sewing by some of the finest shoemakers in the world…Don’t get me started!

Wandering the cities and towns of Italy, you can’t help stopping to sample the food. “Sample,” in my case, however, might under describe. As an American, I’d always been a bit of an ice cream fiend. Those first Italian trips, though, brought me to gelato. And, especially, to the combination of gelato and coffee. 

So what’s the big deal with this “gelato” stuff? Isn’t gelato just the Italian word for ice cream? Yup. Word-wise, that’s it. But if you’re Italian, or a connoisseur…you just know the difference.

Gelato—whichever of its endless recipe variants you try—involves less of four things than ice cream. 

Less sugar—everyone from moms to weightwatchers has to go for that.

Less fat. It’s called ice cream for a reason. Do your arteries need all that? Gelato involves the use of much healthier milk, far less cream.

Less air. Did you know ice cream was whipped at high speed especially to bulk it up with air? The supermarket ice creams you buy may be as much as a quarter or more pure air? Do you need to pay for that? Gelato isn’t puffed up that way. It’s denser, more flavorful.

And finally…less haste. Much less haste. As in: None. Ice creams are manufactured. Good gelato is crafted—every bit as much as those fine Italian shoes. 

Goodbye, ice cream…

And hello, Funkee’s Cafe!

Funkee’s Cafe is my new venture…A brand new coffee and gelato bar, tucked neatly inside a strip center in Marion, Arkansas, just over the Mississippi River from Memphis, Tennessee. 

Arkansas? Yes, indeed…Marion, Arkansas is home to a substantial population of Americans of Italian heritage. They’ve been here, and they’ve been arriving, since before the murderous yellow fever epidemics of the 1870s. Originally mostly workers in agricultural businesses, they now engage in a hundred different occupations. American though they be, they keep alive their Italian heritage. And many know their gelato. Not to mention their coffee.

About great gelato, there’s so much to say. How it’s different from North American ice creams. Why it works as a gourmet delight…and as an everyday treat. How we make it. What it’s like to attend school with a great gelato maker. And how we at Funkee’s Cafe hope to serve not only great coffee, great gelato and other fine foods, but to serve Marion and eastern Arkansas and the Memphis area with a new business vision, new opportunities, and so much more.

The blogs will roll out fast, so watch! And when you can, drop in—we’d love to see you!



Thank you and have a Great Day,



Gelato/shaved ice/sliders restaurant opening in October


Gelato/shaved ice/sliders restaurant opening in October

By Meagan Nichols - Staff Reporter Memphis Business Journal

Oct 8, 2015, 2:59pm CDT

It’s over the river and down the bridge to Marion, Arkansas, we go, for a new dining option.

Funkee’s Café, located at 2895 Highway 77, Suites 2 and 3, will open to the public in late October.

The restaurant will have Italian gelato, gourmet coffees, New Orleans shaved ice, various yogurts and other light meal options. Mary Singer, Funkee's owner, said they plan to use farm fresh ingredients.

“We want to keep residents of Marion from having to drive across the river in search of premium coffee, shaved ice, sliders and other food delicacies,” Singer said, in a release. “And just as much, we want to give the Mid-South a reason to cross over the bridge to enjoy what we offer. They’ll find the trip’s well worth it.”

Singer said she wants Funkee’s Cafe to become “Marion’s place.”

“We’re not a chain,” Singer said. “We’re local. Our employees are local. Our purpose is to serve the local community.”

An event room at the restaurant is also available for functions.