What is it that the block of Main Street between Liberty and William needs? Well, if you ask Deion Cao and Alexis Matteson, co-founders of Milk & Froth, what it needs is a new ice cream shop.
Cao explained the name during the grand opening on November 18 by saying “We took inspiration of how we actually make ice cream. You start with milk often times, and when you’re actually pasteurizing it, emulsifying it, a lot of foam gets created, so that’s where the froth came in.”
But downtown Ann Arbor is already awash with ice cream – Kilwin’s, the Michigan Creamery, etc. – so why is this new shop different? Cao says it is in the handmade nature of how they make their ice cream.
“The dirty little secret in the ice cream industry is that nobody actually makes their ice cream. … At ground level, there are companies that buy ice cream and scoop it. Then at the next level, which is virtually every other company, is that they buy a premanufactured ice cream mix – it’s ice cream in a bag – that they pour into a machine, pump in artificial flavors and colors, and that is what they call ‘homemade ice cream.’ The next level up is people who make a base, and then they add their flavor to it. It’s made by them, but they’re basically just replicating a remanufacturing mix,” Cao explained. “Where we’re different [is] we make all of our ice cream from scratch.”
Four of the 12 ice cream flavors available are dairy-free and vegan. Milk & Froth says that all of their ingredients are locally sourced from Michigan where practicable.
“We’ve got more dairy than non-dairy, but we’ve got a good selection of non-dairy, and we try to not compromise at all on texture and flavor of those,” Matteson said. “Our roasted strawberry is the only strawberry we have. It happens to be non-dairy, but no one who wants a strawberry ice cream is going to be disappointed.”
Matteson and Cao originally only intended to operate their business out of their original location at the Buhl building in downtown Detroit. But they came to visit Ann Arbor after being told by a surprising number of patrons how many of them were from the area, curious about a college town they had never really been to.
Cao and Matteson eventually agreed to open this second location in Ann Arbor, and stumbled upon their current storefront at 328 South Main Street, in between KouZina and the Ark. Its location between the Big House and its accumulating collection of condos to the south, and the main stretch of Main Street that has always been the premier restaurant destination of Ann Arbor has set the business up well as a natural after-dinner desert location.
The brick exterior of the two-story building is non-descript with pink neon lights illuminating their logo above the front door and window. Inside, the decor is clean and functional, with a red and white color scheme on the walls and appliances that seem to bounce off of the polished wooden floor.
“I think the vibe is really cool. I like color; it feels very bright in here, a nice escape from the cold. It feels like summer again to get ice cream,” U of M film, television and media student Danielle Ralston said before trying her honeycomb ice cream. After trying it, she said “It’s very good.”
Ice cream is available in small cups and waffle cones for people who want to eat immediately. Pints are also available for patrons who want to bring the ice cream home. Most of their options will be available year-round, but there will be two to three seasonal ice creams that will come in and out every few weeks.
Milk & Froth products can also be found in a number of grocery stores around Metro Detroit, including Plum Market. A full list is available on their website.
More is to come from Milk & Froth in the future. Their ice cream truck is in storage over the winter but will be back next spring.
“We’re looking to hire at least 5 more people,” to full-time or part-time positions, Matteson said.
They are also in the process of turning the back of their Ann Arbor location into a 1,200-square-foot patio area, which Cao describes to eventually be “a mini-oasis.” They are aiming to get that ready by this spring.
“It is delicious. Very, very refreshing,” Jackie Purvins said, ice cream in hand.