Kailey Foxcroft and Brandon Douglas may not agree on the best ice cream-doughnut sandwich flavor, but they agree that customers are the best part of co-owning Mesa’s Novel Ice Cream.
“Honestly, we make an amazing product, don’t get me wrong,” Foxcroft said.
“But what keeps me going is truly our customers, to be able to make a small connection with them and give them some type of joy in part of their day. As easy as it is to say, the customers are honestly what keeps me going and are my favorite part of working and now co-owning an ice cream shop with Brandon.”
Located in Mesa and Phoenix, Novel Ice Cream blends nostalgia, warm doughnut buns and artisan ice cream. It offers two flavors, crispy European waffle sandwiches, glass bottle sodas and cereal sprinkles.
“The idea for an ice cream-stuffed doughnut has been done in other cultures quite a bit,” Douglas said.
“The version in Italy is what drew my attention to it. They were taking brioche buns and stuffing gelato and then that idea made it over to the U.S.”
Novel has specialized in ice cream-stuffed doughnuts since the Phoenix store opened in March 2017. But, he said, they “take it more seriously than anybody else.”
Douglas has tried the treats in other states, but they were “underwhelming.”
“I felt like it could be done really, really well,” Douglas said. “For a couple of years, I just secretly hoped somebody else in Arizona would do it. But after nobody else did, I decided it must be my calling.”
But there’s more to Novel Ice Cream than doughnuts and ice cream. Douglas said it’s been a place for “people who have been hurt by the world in some way.” People need a sweet escape from the world’s problems.
“Objectively speaking, we’re kind of inundated with bad news a lot and we want it to really be a place where people come in and just feel absolute joy,” Douglas said. “Food’s just a universal language. When you have something you look forward to for a long time, there are few things that will provide that type of escape from your worries. We are probably like a place to eat your emotions, basically,”
The Downtown Mesa store is the newest one, having opened in March. The opening of it was a two-year project. For two years, the duo had been working on an East Valley location.
“When we were ready to open a second location, we knew that East Mesa was, or at least the East Valley, is where we wanted to go,” Foxcroft said.
“I grew up out in East Mesa and I’ve always kind of had a heart for Downtown Mesa and it just felt right. One random hot summer day, I just started walking the streets of Main Street and landed at the spot that we’re in. One of our neighbors is actually a customer of ours and so it just really sealed the deal that Mesa is where we needed to be.”
Foxcroft started as an employee for Novel and is now the co-owner of Novel Ice Cream in Mesa. Douglas said Foxcroft’s love for the customers is why they complement each other as owners.
“I don’t want to say ditto, but that’s why Kailey was the perfect fit for a business partner for me,” Douglas said.
“She shares that vision. A lot of stuff we talk about sounds really cheesy on a surface level because you can go to the corporate meeting and they’ll talk about family and how important customers are and all this.”
When Douglas and Foxcroft look for employees, they want people who are personable.
“What we do is we hire people who genuinely love people,” Douglas said. “We can teach you how to do everything at our shop, but we can’t teach you to like people. You come in a Novel and you get an experience that literally ruins all other ice cream shops for you because we want to be that bar that we set for you.”