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T-Icy rolls across Duluth

This hibachi-style Thai rolled ice cream treat is called “Monkey Family.” It is flavored with Nutella-brand hazelnut spread and banana. The choice of toppings featured here are strawberry slices, cinnamon sticks and mango-flavored boba pearls. (Photo by Suenary Philavanh)

T-Icy Roll Ice Cream is preparing to open a second Duluth location this winter. An awning with the store name is already up at 202 E. Superior St., the former location of Lake Superior Art Glass.

Owner Daniel Huang and manager Michelle Lin opened the first T-Icy shop on Aug. 10 in the Denfeld Retail Center at 4602 Grand Ave. in West Duluth. Lin is Huang’s niece.

Ice cream lovers can watch as fresh fruit and fresh milk are poured onto an icy plate and are mixed with long, thin metal spatulas. With each mixing, the milk begins to solidify and is flattened on the plate. The ice cream is then rolled up by the spatula and is put into a cup. Toppings are sprinkled, and the ice cream is ready to serve.

Rolled ice cream, also known as stir-fried ice cream, was first developed by street vendors in Thailand. The trend hit the United States about three years ago.

Huang and Lin are also the owner/manager combination behind Bubble Tea Company of Duluth, which opened in May at the Miller Hill Mall. That business does not sell rolled ice cream, but Lin hopes an ice cream plate can be installed there in the future.

Bubble tea is a Taiwanese milk tea that is often served with ice and tapioca pearls. The sweet beverage can be made with a variety of flavors. T-icy Roll Ice Cream locations also serve bubble tea.

The grand opening of T-Icy in West Duluth “was busy from morning ‘til night,” Lin said.

T-Icy Roll Ice Cream Manager Michelle Lin. (Photo by Suenary Philavahn)

“Lots of people came to try,” she said. “Some people have only seen rolled ice cream in media, and they haven’t seen it live. Especially little kids — they are really excited to watch how to make the ice cream.”

Huang and his family moved to Duluth from New York nine years ago. He has a love for ice cream, and especially enjoys the rolled ice cream shops in Queens and Manhattan.

Huang pitched the idea to his family two years ago of creating a rolled ice cream parlor in Duluth. He underwent several months of training at I CE NY, a Thai rolled ice cream shop in New York, to learn how to effectively mix bubble tea and roll ice cream.

“I went to New York for training because they had a wide range of training and [I was] able to learn better skills in the highly competitive city,” Huang said.

Lin said it’s fun to watch and make your own ice cream.

“This year is still our first year, and we need to train more people,” she said. “Next year, we will have more flavors.”

Lin said the most difficult part of starting the businesses has been securing locations.

“It was so hard,” she said. “We were looking around all over Duluth. We have to get the size right. Sometimes there are places so big, but we know we don’t need that much space. Sometimes it’s too small, it’s not enough.”

The location in West Duluth is considered ideal because it has ample behind-the-counter space, and room for customers who want to sit to relax with their treat or stand to watch the rolled ice cream performance.

“We’ve been trying to find a good location in Woodland and UMD, but it’s so hard finding a space over there,” Lin said.

Another challenge is cold-weather months when demand for ice cream slows. Lin said the T-Icy shops will likely reduce hours during winter.

“Winter is a great test for the ice cream shop,” Huang said. “[In winter] some people still want ice cream. They can still come in. Maybe it won’t be as busy, but we’ll still have people coming.”

She also said the shops might focus more on selling hot bubble tea, hot milk tea and hot chocolate in the winter.

1 Comment

David Beard

about 1 year ago

Love the bubble tea place, enjoy the ice cream (see my post) but the Denfeld location is so loud, between the noise of the ice-cream-making process and the music and the cavernous space. ... It feels a bit more like a place for teens than me.

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