By M. Lapham
Birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, or just a way to beat the heat, there is no doubt people love ice cream. It is so loved, they bring it home from the store and still have their favorite places to go and indulge.
With all of that, how does someone even attempt to open a new store and hope to be successful?
If that someone is Simon Gaggo, owner and founder of iFreeze Creamery, you find a less ordinary way to make your ice cream. You freeze it with liquid nitrogen, allowing fewer ice crystals and a creamier dessert
Liquid nitrogen ice cream is not a new thing. Gaggo first discovered it while in another state. IFreeze Creamery is one of the few to use the process in Southeast Michigan.
"(The) first summer we did amazing,” said Gaggo. “It was something new."
Using nitrogen to make the ice cream has been a successful choice. The original location at 43702 Schoenherr Rd. in Sterling Heights opened just last year. Gaggo has already expanded to two locations, including another store in Sterling Heights at 3546 15 Mile Rd. and one in West Bloomfield at 6331 Haggerty Rd.
The idea for the ice cream parlor came to Gaggo when he was working in plumbing, of all things.
They had been using liquid nitrogen at work. He took it home with him and started "playing around with it." Remembering when he saw it before, he figured out how to use it to make ice cream.
Six months later, he had a shop.
Aside from the enhanced creaminess, using liquid nitrogen allows smaller batches and, with that, fresher ice cream. Whereas places like Basken Robins have tubs of ice cream sitting in a freezer, iFreeze makes it right in front of you in a matter of minutes.
"All of our ice cream is made fresh to order," said Gaggo.
It’s an interesting combination of culinary and chemistry.
First, you put the cream, and whatever flavor is wanted in a bowl, then you add the liquid nitrogen
Liquid nitrogen is -321 degrees Fahrenheit. So, when the room temperature air, meet a cloud of fog forms when the water molecules condense.
Then, once the fog of nitrogen is cleared away, it can be scooped, when the customer decides how soft it should be.
Given the extreme temperature, it is a quick process. It also means it melts as soon as it hits your mouth.
Gaggo says that show is part of the reason people come in to the store.
That novelty may have been an important first step. However, Gaggo believes word of mouth made his business – both the old-fashioned way and with social media. Families told other family members about it, he said.
Despite the two expansions, iFreeze Creamery is still a relatively personal store, with no more than two or three employees at each location.
Gaggo is often hustling between the stores, taking care of the background business, but if you walk into the shop you'll see it is a family affair. The folks behind could likely be his brother, fiancé or another family member.
"We want to try and keep it in the family," said Gaggo. When he expanded into West Bloomfield and needed a partner, while not family in the strict sense, he sought out a longtime friend.
A small number of employees and those personal connections may be how iFreeze Creamery maintains the customer service that earned it 4.5/5 stars on the notoriously fickle review website, Yelp.
iFreeze Creamery is opened year-round, every day from 2-10 p.m.
From Sterling Heights to West Bloomfield, and in the future maybe even beyond, it seems ice cream and liquid nitrogen is a cool combination that gets results.