116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Cari Nguyen said she always wanted to own an ice cream shop.
That dream became a reality just a few months ago.
“Our Realtor sent us the listing in early April and within and hour my husband had put the offer on it,” she said.
“That night when I got home, he told me we were the new owners of the Kool Moo. It was kind of spur of the moment.”
She said she and her husband, Nicholas — who also runs a construction business — always are on the lookout for investment opportunities.
“It's not unlikely for our Realtor to just send us different businesses as ideas, but she never knew that I worked at Dairy Queen for my first job, and I always loved that job and said one day I’d own an ice cream shop,” Nguyen said.
“So when this came up, we knew it was something we couldn’t pass up.”
The duo does a lot of the behind-the-scenes work, such as ordering and bookkeeping. They can also be found in the shop in the evenings when it’s especially busy.
Nguyen’s mother works at the Kool Moo during the day along with the couple’s teens — another reason they invested in the business — and several other employees.
The Kool Moo first opened in 1973 and has been a staple in the northeast Cedar Rapids neighborhood near Noelridge Park since then.
“I feel like it was kind of like a hidden little gem,” she said.
“So now we are very into Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to get that word of mouth going and let everything out to the public to let them know we are here and back open.”
Nguyen said it’s been a busy summer so far, with increased volume from what the past ownership experienced.
“When we first opened, we were given a rundown of what we needed, and we’ve had to restock a ton of stuff already.” Nguyen said.
Nguyen said it helps that they started offering cash and credit card options as well as gift cards.
Owners: Cari and Nicholas Nguyen
Address: 1020 Old Marion Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids
Phone: (319) 393-5576
Their biggest challenge so far is parking. With increased customers — especially during busy evening hours — it can get a little congested, Nguyen said, but they are working with neighboring businesses to welcome customers to the area.
“We are the only ice cream shop in town that stays open until 10 at night, so we get really slammed that last hour,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen said they’ve kept all the previous owner’s menu options and have added new items such as several new avalanche flavors — ice cream mixed with candy and syrups and featuring various toppings.
“We are very open to what the customer wants versus what's on the menu,” Nguyen said. “While we have a menu set in place, that doesn't mean that’s your limit. You can mix and match — you can make your own concoctions up.”
One new addition to the menu is Dole Whip, a dairy free option.
“We offer pineapple and then a twist option” said Nguyen, noting that it’s been very popular. “Pomegranate was probably my favorite one so far so I'm going to bring that one back soon.
“And I think we get thanked almost daily by moms of kids who had to previously sit-out ice cream shop visits because they couldn’t have dairy.”
The couple plans to remain open until at least the end of October, Nguyen said.
“If weather permits, we will go into November a little bit,” she added.
Customer feedback has been important.
“If we get good feedback, we tend to add new menu items,” Nguyen said.
“We have probably nine or 10 avalanches in the last month that we have created and added based off our customers. We like having the flexibility to see what the customer wants and then offer it if we can, and it makes sense.”
Nguyen added that their color changing spoons have been a big hit.
“The ice cream just seems to taste better when you use one,” she said.
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