On any given evening, it is standing room only at Cool Spot Ice Cream Rolls & Tea in Boynton Beach, with patrons lining up for what is arguably the most Instagram-worthy dessert in town: Thai-inspired flash-frozen ice cream rolls. Since opening in March, the small eatery in the Quantum Village plaza on Gateway Boulevard has built a loyal following that can’t get enough of its trendy ice cream rolls and premium iced teas.
Unlike barrel-packed ice cream at traditional shops, the tasty offerings at Cool Spot are created in front of your eyes. Employees pour a creamy liquid onto a round griddle that has been chilled to between -17 and -20°C. They add your mix-ins, chop them, and then repeatedly scrape and spread the mixture while it freezes. This creates smooth, flat sheets of minutes-old ice cream that is curled into delicate spirals, placed into a cup with tongs, and topped however you like.
This special method of making ice cream isn’t just fascinating to watch; it also creates a richer, denser product. Ice cream tends to develop crystals as it freezes, and the longer it takes to freeze, the larger those crystals are. Flash-frozen ice cream is smoother than other types because crystals don’t have much of a chance to grow. The rolls also have less air than ordinary ice cream, which is generally shaken or whipped as it freezes. The result is a treat that is unbelievably rich and creamy.
Cool Spot was founded by Kenny Wang, 34, of Boynton Beach. Wang grew up as a “restaurant kid”, and said almost everyone in his large family operates Chinese food restaurants, including his parents, two older siblings and almost 20 cousins scattered across Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and the District of Columbia. After immigrating to the U.S. 12 years ago, Wang spent most of his time cooking over a sizzling wok in family members’ establishments, while saving money to open a restaurant of his own. His decision to open an ice cream shop was a big departure from family tradition and took many of his family members by surprise.
Wang discovered Thai ice cream rolls during a trip to New York City in December 2015 and immediately began researching the culinary trend that was taking off in metropolises including Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Montreal. Shortly after returning to Boynton Beach, he purchased a commercial grade “teppan” ice cream machine and began practicing making rolls at home, testing techniques and flavor combinations on friends, relatives, and neighbors.
“Everyone liked it, but it was a big risk,” Wang said. “My family thought I was crazy.”
His gamble has paid off and Cool Spot is thriving, however, it wasn’t all smooth sailing getting to this point. Wang signed the lease and got the keys to his storefront on Gateway Blvd, just off I-95, in August 2016. He expected it would take 2 months to renovate the space and open his doors, but permitting and inspections dragged on for more than 7 months. Once the shop opened, it took a few weeks for customers to discover it.
“The first week was really scary because it was really slow,” Wang recalled.
It definitely isn’t slow anymore. One of the biggest factors in the success of Cool Spot has been social media, and with good reason. The rolls are beautiful and make for great photos.
“Most customers hear about us on Instagram, SnapChat, or Facebook,” Wang said. “Social media has helped a lot. I didn’t have to spend as much on advertising. Ten years ago, it would have been a lot harder.”
About 85% of Cool Spot’s customers order ice cream rolls – particularly the Cookie Monster, OMG, Gimme S’more, and Raspberry Cheesecake flavors – but the shop also sells brewed and boba teas. “Teas are about 15% of our business so far, but it’s growing,” Wang said.
Most teas are brewed fresh in an espresso-like tea machine and then chilled in ice shakers. Cool Spot has fruity and unsweetened teas. It also offers milky boba teas that are blended to order and served with tapioca “bubbles.” The most popular teas to date are Taro and white peach.
Wang is uncertain what the future holds for Cool Spot, which he runs with his wife Anna and a stable of mostly teenaged employees. At the moment, he works seven days a week and has yet to take more than a few hours off at a time. He has considered opening a second location with one of his cousins, but he isn’t sure whether the trend will last long enough for his 2½ -year-old son Ethan to follow in his footsteps.
“Right now I’m just working really hard, trying to make everything better and better,” he said. “We’re always testing new flavors and toppings. We’re starting to get regular customers, and that’s really nice.”
To try these tasty ice cream rolls for yourself, visit Cool Spot Ice Cream Rolls & Tea at 1015 Gateway Blvd Suite 401, Boynton Beach, FL 33426.