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The Scoop On Uptown Saint John’s New Ice Cream Shop

Derek Billingsley and Naomi van Roosmalen. (Image: Cherise Letson/ Huddle Today)

SAINT JOHN – Saint Johners will soon be able to scoop up some traditional ice cream in a new shop opening uptown this Monday.

Bella’s Traditional Ice Cream, located at 87 Germain Street, will offer small batch, homemade ice cream, pastries and a new place for people to come together.

The business is owned by Derek Billingsley and his wife Naomi van Roosmalen. They got the idea to open the shop after a family vacation in Boston a couple of years ago.

“We were in Summerville and were at this little home-made ice cream shop there. It was a nice summer day and everyone was happy. It was such a nice feeling,” says Billingsley.

“There was so much energy and we thought, ‘hey, this is something Saint John doesn’t have. There are some ice cream shops around and there’s Gelato and there are all sorts of different products like that, but I’m an old-school ice cream guy. So we started learning about how you make it, researching recipes and ingredients.”

All Bella’s ice cream starts with a rich home-made dairy base, which Billingsley says they worked with a dairy scientist consultant to create.

“We make it here on site. It’s the regular cream, milk, eggs, skim milk batter, and we make this really rich blend that we use as the base to our dairy-based products,” he says. “We also have a coconut-based product as a vegan product that’s really creamy.”

Bella’s doesn’t use any preservatives, chemicals or dyes in its products. Also, don’t expect to see the typical glass storage coolers in the shop either.

“We’re going to serve ice cream here a little differently,” says Billingsley. “The coolers are different … it’s about keeping the product away from the air so that the quality is really maintained.”

Since the ice cream is made in small batches, there’s lots of room to experiment. Flavours range from classics like chocolate to more experimental flavours like toasted hazelnut, roasted banana, and black licorice. Bella’s will also be making its own waffle cones and mini waffles. They will also have a pastry chef who will be working part-time to make additional desserts.

“We want to nail the ice cream sandwich and we want to have the perfect fudge brownie. We will also have these sundaes on rotation as well,” says Billingsley. “We won’t have croissants and things like that, but we will have things that are complementary to ice cream.”

Customers will be able to purchase their ice cream in a cone or in a sugarcane-based biodegradable bowl served with a wooden spoon. You can also take a glass jar of it home, then bring the jar back to get it refilled.

Customers will be able to purchase ice cream in refillable glass jars. (Image: Cherise Letson/ Huddle Today)

“We’re trying to be sustainable. We don’t want to add to the waste out there,” says van Roosmalen.

Bella’s will seat around 26 people and employ 10-20 full-time and part-time staff throughout the year. The business’ name is a tribute to Billingsley’s grandmother.

My grandmother’s name was Isabella. I was certainly a grandma’s boy growing up,” he says. “She grew up on a farm and she told me this really neat story about growing up and making strawberry ice cream the old-fashioned way.”

Billingsley and van Roosmalen hope their ice cream shop will add to the business and community growth the uptown has experience over the last several years.

“A couple a years ago we were at Third Shift and that’s when I thought, ‘I love this area.’ Because there were so many people out … I thought we could really add to that,” says Billingsley. “This unit was always underperforming and it wasn’t really a draw for people in this area. We have Rogue Coffee down the street, we go the Feel Good Store next door, there are some nice places in this neighborhood and we want to add to that.”

“We’re just really excited about adding to the community. We just want to build up the connection between people,” adds van Roosmalen. “This is a place to come together. It’s just a place to come and relax and be happy and make friends and just increase the sense of community that we have here.”