By James Maher
Name: Michael “Mikey” Cole, Pete Rosado
Occupation: Owner and Head Chef, Operations Manager and Sous Chef, Mikey Likes It Ice Cream
Location: 199 Avenue A (Between 12th and 13th)
Time: 1:30 pm on Wednesday, Sept. 17
I had a sneaker store a couple years ago with a kid who caught the Barry Bonds baseball. It was ahead of its time. It was called Soul Food NYC on the west side of Tribeca. It was a sneaker store that looked like a restaurant. People would come in the store and ask what time is lunch being served. So then I started serving food. I’d make cornbread and ice tea and people would come in and grab that during the summer. Then I made candied yams ice cream and people came in and were like, ‘Yo, my man, these sneakers are okay, but this damn ice cream you got right here, you need to put this in pints.’
When the store closed my mom was sick for like a year and I would take care of her every day. I started to realize that I wasn’t living the right life at the time. I used to sell weed as a kid, so I never had a full-time job. I was trying to figure things out. Let me just turn over a new leaf and do something right. So you know what, ice cream it is. My dad was like, ‘Ice cream?’ I was like, ‘Trust me dad, ice cream.’ So my father said, ‘If you really feel like that’s what it is and you promise you’re not going to get locked up, ice cream it is. Let’s do it.’
This was about two summers ago. I got my cart off of selling these buckets of ice creams on 14th and 1st. I’d be just like this with a pair of shorts on, all day. No one’s buying ice cream from a kid standing on the corner. It was crazy but I would not go home until it was gone. Then it came to the point where people would see me at the bus stop or I’d be going somewhere and people would be like, ‘There’s the kid that sells ice cream on 14th Street.’
I was also learning from somebody else at the time. That person owned their own ice cream company downtown and they told me they couldn’t help me anymore. So a friend of mine who owns a bakery in Brooklyn where I get all my stuff from said, ‘You’re going to learn to make ice cream yourself. You’re going to put your own spirit into it.’ He closed his bakery at 9 at night and I would come and watch him bake for like 2-3 hours and I’d make ice cream.
I was actually in a competition for writing business plans. [I won $100,000] but they didn’t give me the earnings. So that set me back. From that day on I got depressed for like two weeks and I ended up going to a training called Landmark Forum and that taught me to break through my fears. I got courage and I was connected to a guy who had a farm upstate through Landmark and he was like, ‘Mikey, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in your ability, people will help make it happen.’ I didn’t understand what the hell he was talking about, but from that day on, I decided to drop everything that I was doing as an extra-curricular activity, and I said I’m going to hone in on this ice cream until it gets somewhere.
Pete and I are buddies, so I called Pete to come to my house and I said, ‘You with me? It’s going to be hard but we’re going to break some barriers.’ So Pete came on board, and I started to teach him how to make ice cream. We’d be at my house for hours filling up the freezer with ice cream until my mom was like, ‘You gotta get that shit out of here.’ I had people coming to the apartment buying ice cream. It was crazy.
But Landmark was telling me to keep fighting no matter what. So when I thought I was getting money from the school I started talking to the landlord about the space here. It was originally a print shop called Milo’s Printing. When it was taking a long time, the landlord said he couldn’t wait any longer. I had some money saved up and I gave it to him to hold the space for two weeks and someone else donated the money to me to get the rent. The guy from the farm came in and gave me $2,000 to paint the place and do what I had to do.
Right now all the ice cream is made right here. Now what I decided was, through the farm we’re going to expand and take it for real. So I have a building on this 32-acre farm — this breathing space it’s called. They’re breathing life into my business. They gave me the building and the whole bottom of this building. We gutted it, we painted it, did everything to it, and now we’re putting a ‘Mikey Likes It’ sign on it. There are two one-bedroom apartments on the top, so I’m able to go up there and make ice cream for three or four days. Now I’m saving up to get a bigger machine.
What makes us different is that we use fresh [ingredients]. As a child we associated mint ice cream with green dye number 5, peppermint extract and chocolate chips. We didn’t want that, so we fresh pressed mint ourselves. Pete cooks as well and Pete having a Puerto Rican background, it gives me something different to land on. It’s good that we have two different palates. Pete tries to control me, he’s like, 'Stop doing that' [trying new flavors]. I’ve got like ADHD. Me, I just want to make everything.
Read Part 1 here.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.