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St. Paul’s 2 Scoops Ice Cream Eatery opened just days after the police killing of George Floyd last year, and protesters had begun to take to the streets to voice their outrage. Meanwhile, the global pandemic was raging.
In the midst of the chaos, the Black-owned family business in the heart of the historic Rondo neighborhood in St. Paul worked to provide a sweet respite from the world’s bitter realities.
“It was kind of something that the city really needed with everything that was going on,” said Brian White Jr., one of 2 Scoops’ co-owners. “We would watch people come in and you could just tell that they were really wearing the stuff that was going on in the community on them, but they would come in and grab some ice cream, some good conversation, and by the time they were heading out, they were all smiles.”
Black-owned businesses like 2 Scoops saw a wave of support from the general public last year following Floyd’s Memorial Day death. While the additional sales provided a boost, the business’ connections to the community have helped it grow, White said.
Located in the former space of well-known coffee shop Golden Thyme, 2 Scoops is owned by White, his father, Brian White Sr., mother Rdella White and aunt Cheryline Elliot.
Brian White Sr. had worked as a chef for about 35 years, most recently at the nearby J. Selby’s, when he and his family started to discuss what it would be like to have their own business. They settled on the idea of selling hot food and ice cream including flavors like banana cream pie and espresso Oreo.
“Ice cream is a thing that everyone comes out and enjoys,” Brian White Jr. said. “No matter what your age is, your race, your sexual orientation.”
The plan was for an April 2020 opening, but it was postponed a month after the coronavirus pandemic hit and severe restrictions were imposed in the early weeks. Then Floyd was killed in south Minneapolis, and the Twin Cities erupted.
“It was like everything was happening all at once while we were opening,” said Brian White Jr. “I’m not going to lie. It was a little disheartening.”
Yet the store did well and became a popular spot for protesters to visit for a break after marches, and for others who wanted a treat. Celebrities like former Minnesota Twins player Joe Mauer have stopped by to show support.
Summer sales from this year have been about the same or a little better than last year’s. The company has also opened a separate event space next door for small gatherings and business meetings.
“Maybe at one point they came through because they want to support a Black-owned business or their consciousness was raised, but then [customers] got in and the product was really good and they couldn’t help but to come back,” he said. “I’m hoping that it’s more of that than everything else.”