Nicole Bhar and her sister Candyce Morris love ice cream. So does Bhar’s wife, Paula Shyba. But they’re also entrepreneurs who know how to study the local market. “I grew up in Calgary, where we were so used to going to Village Ice Cream for dessert after dinner,” Shyba says. “And for years, we were just like, why doesn’t that exist in Edmonton?”
So the trio opened the first Kind Ice Cream in Ritchie and helped kick off Edmonton’s ice cream boom. “We’ve seen it change so much and become so vibrant that we wanted to be a part of that,” Bhar continues. “We just knew right from the get-go that we wanted that spot.”
That spot is 800 square feet, so the trio built out the front 300 feet and made all the ice cream in the back. “We were so confident in our business plan, and the space was so perfect,” Morris says. “We were like, ‘We’ll just be here forever.’”
They outgrew the kitchen on the first day.
“We made as much ice cream as we possibly could, opened our doors and had a lineup down the block, which was incredible,” Shyba says.
They initially had to close the shop for three days a week, just to make enough ice cream to keep up with the demand of the other four. It took almost two months to follow the original business plan of being open seven days a week.
That was all in 2019. By spring 2021 they opened another adorable shop in yet another bustling area, Highlands, followed by another in the community formerly known as Oliver in April of 2023.
Clearly, Edmontonians wanted an old-fashioned ice cream shoppe (or three), and these women knew it. But they wanted to share more than their sweet treats. “We really wanted to create a community hub, and ice cream is the medium,” Bhar says, which is why they eschewed pop-up farmers’ markets for brick-and-mortar stores in dense, walkable neighbourhoods full of families, and why they’re explicit in their inclusive philosophy.
“As a queer couple, we had the discussion of how vocal do we want to be about it?” Bhar says. “And we decided pretty early on that, yeah, we’re going to make it known that we’re a queer-owned ice cream shop.”
There’s been pushback to their outspokenness. Some customers won’t say the name of their favourite flavour — the Froot Loops-infused Gay Okay —but will still order it by pointing and saying, “that one.” And an Instragram user posted that Kind “lost a customer” because of it. But they’ve mostly been just annoying, like an ice cream headache, and “all our other followers rallied behind us, writing, ‘Kind is very gay — how have you not noticed yet?’”
Overwhelmingly, the trio have noticed how much of a hub their old-school ice cream shops have become, like a real-life Archie Comics. “We had a customer here a couple of weeks ago saying that one of her favourite places to hang out is in a Kind lineup, because her neighbours are there, just chatting,” Morris says. “Anytime I hear anything like that, I’m just like, yeah, that’s why we do this.”