It’s no surprise that on any given day Michael “Mikey” Cole’s Lower East Side ice cream parlor, Mikey Likes It, has a line of people waiting to get flavors such as “Foxy Brown,” “Ice Ice Baby” and “Mint Condition.”
Cole, 36, has the scoop on not only making ice cream but also running a successful business. His ice cream store is the buzz of his home neighborhood in Lower Manhattan.
“When you come into my shop, I want you to be in place where you can have fun again,” he said. “When you’re here, I want you to feel good about life.”
A native of the Lower East Side, Cole said that growing up in New York City gave him the opportunity to explore different neighborhoods.
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Mikey Likes It Ice Cream
199 Avenue A
Lower East Side, Manhattan
It was the passing of his close aunt that got him into the ice cream business. While he and his mother were cleaning his aunt’s apartment after her death, he discovered cookbooks and found his aunt’s recipe for vanilla ice cream.
Cole bought an ice cream maker and began experimenting and perfecting his craft.
“Every night I would make ice cream, trying to get it right,” he said. “After a few trials and errors, I finally got it the way I wanted it. I feel like when I make ice cream, my aunt is with me. Even now when I make ice cream, I am in a peaceful place.”
A friend of his who owned a bakery allowed him to use his kitchen after hours to work and experiment.
A six-month jail sentence he had served was preventing him from gaining employment, leading him to turn his newfound passion into a business.
Cole enrolled in the Defy Ventures program, designed to help formerly incarcerated individuals by giving them the tools they need to start a businesses. The program is a competition-based, entrepreneurship training program, which Cole won.
Now, paying it forward, Cole said he hires people who are reentering society after serving time.
Originally selling ice cream in a push cart, he eventually found a small location in his neighborhood and a landlord who was willing to work with him. He started out making ice cream in his shop, but the demand was so great he partnered with Dairyland Ice Cream in New Jersey to meet it.
His aunt’s original vanilla ice cream is the base for all of his creative flavors. Some of his famous concoctions include “Brady Bunch,” banana pudding, Vienna fingers, crushed vanilla wafers and “Jack and Jill” crunchy peanut butter ice cream with strawberry preserve pound cake sandwiches.
Those who want to give their taste buds (and waistlines) a real treat might like his famous “Mac Daddy” and “Daddy Mac”: ice cream between two Belgian waffles.
The name of his business is a play on his own name and the Life Cereal commercial popular in the 1970s featuring “Mikey.”
“I hope I can use Mikey Likes It Ice Cream as an example,” he said. “I want to be able to put my product in disadvantaged communities who could use it as a fundraiser and teach kids entrepreneurship.”
Cole said that he’s looking to expand to other locations throughout the city, including Harlem and Brooklyn.