We hate to say it, but what our parents say is true. We come from another universe where we seem to be in a permanent state of bewilderment, dawdling life, hoping that someone will miraculously appear and map it all out for us.
Well… we’ll keep waiting, while others are actually moving…
So, who will be the exception of our generation? In this case it’s 21 year old Chuck Woodard and his partner Danny Golik, founders of Chill-N Nitrogen Ice Cream.
Chuck Woodard, a native Miamian, “completely gringo”, majoring in finance in the University of Miami, has been a huge ice cream fan for quite some time.
He told us, “that is the oddest thing about it. I use to love ice cream. When Blue Bell ice cream was never in Publix, here in Miami, I use to have my dad bring over Blue Bell ice cream from Naples in a car with a cooler.”
So when his family friends told him about a simplified concept in Orlando, in the middle of nowhere in this converted mechanics garage, where these guys where mixing ice cream with nitrogen, by hand, well, he drove up to witness it.
“It was packed, absolutely packed.”
Chuck’s parents shot down the idea because it wasn’t consistent or efficient.
But the idea remained; it was still there in his back burner.
“I did some more research myself, started playing around with it. How am I going to be able to do this? I wasn’t really taking it seriously. And then I basically talked to an old friend of mine, Danny, who is actually now my partner and his family had done startups. He had just finished UF and was taking a gap year before Med School.”
“I told him we could make ice cream with liquid nitrogen but there were a couple of big problems with it. It wasn’t commercialized enough, it wasn’t automated, efficient, and it wasn’t cleaned up. What we had seen, would never work here.”
Chuck told us that Danny was surprisingly interested. So they started working on it.
“Danny didn’t go to Med School. Honestly, one of the smartest people I know. Who was going to take this risk with this 19 year old kid? It all kind of worked out. “
“We basically put a tank of liquid nitrogen in my house with five of my roommates for four months. We sat there and would look up recipes online and would just make ice cream. And we would just eat until we were sick. We would do it two or three times a week.”
Chuck explained how it really became about going into the food science. With no culinary background and with the help of Chuck’s mom they finally got a formula that they liked.
Standing out from the rest
Chuck tells us:
Nitrogen is going to bring people into the door, but how are you going to differentiate yourself, how is it going to be a long term thing. You don’t want to be a fad. At one point 20% of all Cold Stones were for sale in this country. They had peaked and they had gone to 1,300 stores or plus. How do you not oversaturate a market place? So many frozen yogurt chains now, it’s not going to last forever. Even they have seen their hay day, they have peaked and now they are settling off. And we didn’t want it to be like that.
The branding had to be different.
The last people to apply a fun and personal strategy to ice cream are Ben and Jerry’s. That was it. The rest of it is a bland corporate image.
The ice cream had to be the best thing. It had to be on par or better than. We are shooting to have better than the main premium ice cream brands out there.
We offer a different product because of the way we are freezing it. The faster it freezes the smaller the ice crystals. So no matter what one of those companies does, they cannot recreate this because we are making it so fresh right in front of the customer.
One thing that we never intended to do at the beginning, but started to realize was how much of the industry is played by artificial flavorings. There are these huge companies that make flavors. Like the chocolate flavors, it’s weird they call it bases. It’s all these compounds mixed up and they say that they can take natural things occurring in nature and re-engineer them.
I still have mixed feelings about that.
There is no way—and I’ve talked to people about this—they can re-create Nutella. It’s something so distinct we have to use the real input product. And we sell a lot of Nutella ice cream, just because it is the real thing. You cannot re-create it.
Real Nutella, real peanut butter, real dulce de leche. And that’s another thing that differentiates our product, the rich flavor we have.
The must have flavors
“Nutella is a must have. Strawberry, my mom makes our strawberry sauce; we reduce the strawberries down to simple syrup. Argentinean dulce de leche is incredible.”
We were curious to know why not Colombian “dulce de leche”? We told him that Colombia has arequipe. He actually said to us, “every single Latin family that comes in here asks me where our dulce de leche is from, and then if I answer back not from their country. They get very upset with me, “Argentinean dulce de leche? No, absolutely not.” Every Latin country believes that they have better dulce de leche. I’m open to trying different ones.”
Opening up this past October, Chuck explained to us how it felt like forever. But, it was ultimately this “innate drive” and an idea at the age of 18 that became Chill-N two years later.
“I was talking about this in my freshman dorms. They were like you are crazy. You have no idea what you are doing. And I remember the opening night, these kids were in here.”
Before Chill-N, Chuck had never worked in a restaurant in his life. The first time they opened, was the first time he had ever touched a cash register. His dad had begged him to gain work experience at Cold Stone first. But that didn’t work.
For him it was all about “learning on the fly”, and the mistakes they did make served as lessons learned.
If this isn’t ambition and dedication, then we don’t know what is.
Stay tuned for a second store in South Miami or Aventura. In the meantime, this is where we will be when hungry for ice cream.
Chill-N is located at 8271 SW 124 Street Miami, Florida 33156