When Edwin Gonzalez and his partner Emma Billa had a craving for Mexican popsicles or mangonadas, they used to drive as far as Des Moines or Chicago to get their favorite sweet desserts. So they decided to start their own small business in Cedar Rapids.
In July, they opened the doors of their ice cream and snack shop, Mangos Ice Cream, on the southwest side. Since then, they’ve been serving up treats like freshly made mango and tres leches ice cream, walking tacos, elotes, piles of Mexican candy and more.
“We want to bring a little more culture to Cedar Rapids,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez was born in Mexico City before his parents moved to the Midwest, and he grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. They moved to Iowa in 2011 to be near other family; his aunt owns Cedar Rapids restaurant El Super Burrito.
Gonzalez worked in other restaurants before deciding to open his own. He and Billa saved money and made a business plan with the help of Kirkwood Community College’s Small Business Development Center. It’s a move they haven’t regretted, he said.
“We pushed, we had a dream, but it wasn’t simple. But a friend told me: ‘If you don’t try, you’ll never know if it will work,’” he said. “This is my advice — if you have something in mind, do it.”
Mango’s menu features an array of Mexican treats like mangonadas: mangos served up with chili, lime and sweet and sour Chamoy sauce; elotes: Mexican-style corn on the cob with chili, lime and cheese; horchata: a cinnamon-vanilla rice drink; and agua fresca, or fresh water, in a variety of flavors from cucumber to pineapple. The vegetarian walking tacos feature jicama, cucumber, avocado, sour cream and peanuts, with an option of adding chicharrones — pork rinds. Hot Cheetos — spicy Cheetos with cheese sauce — or nachos can come plain or loaded with things like sliced jalapenos or sweet corn. Sometimes, Gonzalez serves up freshly made tamales. A “spicy bar” near the front of the shop offers a variety of hot sauces, spice powders and lime juice to kick dishes up another notch.
On the sweet side, popsicles come in flavors like tequila (they’re non-alcoholic), watermelon and tamarind. Ice cream, some milk-based and some dairy free, is made in-house with fresh fruit and comes in flavors like mango, strawberry, guava, Snickers and pistachio. Chocolate-covered frozen bananas, smoothies and milkshakes are also available.
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He also carries chips, cookies and candy imported from Mexico and other Central and South American countries. He stocks a brand of Nicaraguan cookies at the request of one man, who comes in each day to buy a few to have with his morning coffee.
Gonzalez is considering expanding into catering, thinking of birthday parties where he could serve up frozen desserts. He also pictures more locations of Mangos in the future, perhaps starting on the other side of Cedar Rapids, and he is working to expand his inventory.
In the meantime, one thing is certain: ice cream is something that appeals to all.
“We thought about not just Latinos, but the whole community, and we’ve had a great response,” he said. “Cedar Rapids has given us a positive welcome.”
• What: Mangos Ice Cream
• Where: 3260 Southgate Place SW, Cedar Rapids
• When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday
• Details: (319) 210-9977, facebook.com/mangosicecreaminc
l Comments: (319) 398-8339; email@example.com