The Detroit Ice Cream Co. serves up delicious treats and sweets under the helm of owner LaKisha Burns.
Photo by LaKisha Burns
It started with a tingly feeling that she turned into a sweet business venture.
The Detroit Ice Cream Co.’s bold founder LaKisha Burns began her company in 2013 after feeling uninspired at her previous occupation where she wasn’t using her gifts.
“I was miserable and directionless,” Burns told the Michigan Chronicle, adding that she found herself “spinning.”
“I had graduated from Howard University, feeling the weight of expectations and deferred dreams and I felt like I was doing nothing worth doing,” she said, adding that a chance trip changed everything.
Around that time, Harris visited Chicago, Ill., with her aunt (who recorded a live gospel album) to support her family, get some inspiration and get out of her head.
While there, she stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel after the recording with her aunt.
“Following the recording, I was much more aware of what was happening around me and when I woke up the next morning, I noticed a book on the side table,” she said of the descriptive book about the city. “I will never forget opening that book and landing on a spread about an old school ice cream parlor. I got that weird and tangly feeling. I woke my cousin, who was sharing her room with me, up and said, ‘I think I’m gonna try and open up an ice cream parlor in the city. But like, a vintage one.’”
Burns said that at that time back then, there were no large-scale ice cream parlors outside of large chains and one small shop selling third-party ice cream in Detroit to her knowledge.
“The plan was to make the ice cream from scratch and to create these curated experiences around old school flavors and unique twists,” Burns said, adding that she was inspired by the history of the city. “I went to Cass Tech, and I would have to walk past the abandoned shops on my way to the bus stop. I always imagined that I would come back to the city one day and open a sweet shop of some sort in one of those buildings.”
Burns, as a kid, grew up watching movies like “Hoodlum” and “Harlem Nights.”
“All the action took place around a sweet shop of some kind. And as silly as that is, I saw the possibility of opening an ice cream parlor up as my love letter and contribution to the city for all that she has given me,” Burns said adding that her dream of opening a brick and mortar is not as easy as it looks. “The overhead on making ice cream from scratch, storing it and distributing it proved to be too high for the transitioning economy and landscape of the city over the past few years.”
Not one to give up and quit, Burns switched up her business model from needing a brick and mortar to an online parlor offering catering, pop-up, wholesale and drop-off services for customers, she noted.
“We were planning to open a pop-up shop in the Fisher Building in summer 2020 but then the pandemic hit in March, and it became clear that to survive, e-commerce would have to remain in place as our primary means of providing service to our customers,” she said.
Ice cream like Vernor’s inspired flavor, Cass Tech (Baked Apple Pie with Salted Caramel), and Cookies & Cream flavors are the company’s most popular along with Penobscot Pralines and Cream.
“But my personal favorites are Tump’s Blackberry Cobbler named for my father and the connection we have to devouring Mr. FoFo’s blackberry cobbler in the 80s and King’s Browned Butter,” she said. “I love the simplicity of each flavor. You can taste the love and care that goes into each. The flavors take longer to develop and leave you with a nostalgic experience.”
Amber Wimberly, who has worked at the company for the last six years, said that she enjoys serving the customers just as much as she enjoys eating the ice cream and bonding with her inspirational boss.
“LaKisha has been a huge inspiration in my life as a boss and a friend. She believes in everyone and will always push you to do your very best,” she said, adding that her job comes with some intangible perks. “We have serviced parties of all sizes and we do it with the biggest smiles on our faces because as long as our customers are happy, we are happy.”
Burns said she would encourage others to discover their own path to success.
“Never give up. You will make mistakes. Mistakes that seem insurmountable but if you believe that God gave you a vision, write it and work it,” she said. “It has taken years of false starts and restarts for me to understand that everything has an appointed time. With each lesson, our business has grown and has been fortified. This path has been winding and bumpy, but it has been worth it.”
For more information visit https://www.thedetroiticecreamco.com/.