On the heels of Oddfellows coming to the East Village, another ice cream shop called Mikey Likes It is opening on Avenue A next month. No, Life cereal isn’t served. The name refers to founder Mike Cole, a lifelong resident of nearby Stuyvesant Town.
Before opening Mikey Likes It as a catering business, Cole co-owned a sneaker store/art gallery in Tribeca (his partner was the guy who caught Barry Bonds’s record-breaking 756th home run ball and sold it at auction to Marc Ecko).
In 2010, after Solefood closed, Cole was arrested for selling marijuana. “I’m a kid who unfortunately lived a double life,” Cole said. “As good as I was — I have two college degrees — in your younger years of life you sometimes do things you shouldn’t.” After five months at Riker’s Island, he was eventually sentenced to 18 months probation.
Last year, Cole, now 34, won a business-plan competition held by a non-profit that helps ex-convicts develop entrepreneurial skills. Now he’s taking over the tiny nook that briefly belonged to Casa Gusto, where he’ll serve what his operations manager, Pete Rosado, describes as “the world’s first pop culture ice cream.”
The shop’s eight rotating flavors (all-natural and preservative-free) will include Cool Runnings (coconut ice cream with fresh coconut shavings, plus milk and dark chocolate-covered almonds), Ice Ice Baby (made from a combination of Madagascar, Mexican, and Tahitian vanilla beans), and Pretty in Pink (strawberry ice cream with strawberries that have been macerated in balsamic vinegar). The strawberries — along with mint and other ingredients — are sourced from a 32-acre farm in the Catskills.
Cole said he became interested in making food as a kid, when his Aunt Lucy let him go to her culinary school classes. After she died, Cole found her ice cream recipe and now uses a version of it as a base for all of Mikey’s flavors.
Recently, Mikey kicked off an online fundraiser with a goal of $60,000, money that would go toward supplies and creating jobs. “We try to hire at-risk youths, offenders that come from prisons, veterans,” Cole said, talking about how he’d like to be able to visit local schools, tell his story, and inspire future business owners. “If I can make a change for myself, so can others.”
Correction: The original version of this post misstated that Cole used money from the contest he won to start his business; he says he never received it.