Ten-year-old Nyah Mester loves Josh & John’s Naturally Homemade Ice Cream, but not just for the yellow cake ice cream. The Buena Vista Elementary School fifth-grader loves to draw on the chalkboard at the shop.
“It’s a good place for kids to do their thing because most ice cream shops don’t have activities,” said Nyah.
Her mother, Gerianne Mester, likes Josh & John’s because it offers a “safe and positive environment with something for them to do.”
Wearing a chocolate ice-cream mustache, 3-year-old Nora McCabe drew figures on the chalkboard with Nyah.
“Nyah’s favorite flavor is chocolate,” she said, looking up and hiding shyly behind her mom’s legs.
Not only does the product taste good, but the business of ice cream withstands economic downturns, said owner John Krakauer. During the recent downturn in the economy, the store actually did better.
“Ice cream is a luxury item that doesn’t cost much. It’s much less expensive to go out for ice cream than for a family to go out for dinner,” Krakauer said.
For the past five years, Josh & John’s has seen a 5- percent increase in revenue year-over-year.
Business has doubled in the past 10 years, and “we were no slouch 10 years ago,” he added.
Competition over the years has come and gone. For example, where there had once been five Cold Stone Creameries in Colorado Springs, only two exist now, Krakauer said. Josh & John’s has withstood the popularity of yogurt, too.
“There are not that many scoop shops in town,” he said.
The business markets primarily in-store. Between 3,000 and 4,000 people receive notifications of specials via email. Josh & John’s also donates items to various organizations raising money.
“We’re out a lot in the community. We have a reputation of high quality, and we work hard to not sit back and let that reputation drive us,” Krakauer said.
The base of the ice cream is made with 16 percent butterfat.
As much as possible, the store uses natural ingredients.
Some flavors have ingredients like Oreo Cookies or Heath candy bars, so not all ingredients are what Krakauer calls “natural.” Exotic flavors such as amaretto, pumpkin pie and mocha are rotated, while oatmeal cookie and Rocky Mountain are standard, and the shop offers gluten-free ice cream options and dairy-free sorbet and smoothies.
Customers can order shakes, malts, floats, freezes, sundaes, cups or cones. Also, the shop makes its own waffle cones and ice cream cakes. In addition,the business offers a mobile ice cream shop for rent. It’s not unusual for people to serve Josh & John’s ice cream at events such as graduations, birthday parties and weddings.
Much like Ben & Jerry’s, the store is a namesake of two men. Josh Paris and Krakauer grew up together in the Boston area, loving good, homemade ice cream.
“We’d drive about 40 minutes and wait another 40 minutes to an hour in line for good ice cream,” Krakauer said. “We did this almost every weekend.”
In 1981 after high school, Krakauer came to Colorado Springs to attend Colorado College, and Paris enrolled at Middlebury College in Vermont.
Here, Krakauer “missed the mom-and-pop ice cream shops where ice cream is made there and there’s a line out the door,” said Krakauer’s wife, Lindsay Keller. “In Boston, you don’t find chains like Baskin Robbins and Sonic. They’re much more particular about their ice cream.”
So after they graduated, Krakauer and Paris moved back home to work in and learn the trade from the ice cream shops they loved as children and young adults.
They then moved to Colorado Springs and opened the first Josh & John’s on Kiowa Street.
“It was a hit,” said Keller. “They were young, in their early 20s and full of energy. They worked seven days a week, 14 hours a day.”
They didn’t have families yet and lived together in an apartment, “and the rest is history,” said Keller.
That was 27 years ago.
The business eventually moved to its current location at 111 E. Pikes Peak for more room.
During that 27 years, Krakauer and Paris opened businesses in Boulder and downtown Denver on Larimer Square. The Boulder site was “very successful until the riots on the Hill in the mid-90s,” Krakauer said. So they waited for their lease to end there and closed that location. The Larimer Square location was not successful, so the owners closed it as well.
Missing his family, Paris eventually moved back to the Boston area and became a math teacher, just like his “kindred spirit,” Krakauer, Keller said.
Krakauer also married, had a family and became a math teacher at Palmer High School.
Krakauer met Keller because she was teaching middle school English to his son.
“We were friends for a long time and one day we weren’t friends,” Keller said, laughing. “I married into ice cream, I suppose.”
When they married two years ago, it was the second marriage for both.
Of course, they conducted their wedding at Josh & John’s.
“This place represents everything we wanted in our wedding,” said Keller. “We wanted it to be light-hearted, about family and fun and love.
“It’s a special place and it’s a special woman,” Krakauer said. “It worked out well.”
During the nuptials, they left the business open so the public could still access ice cream.
“People were coming in and buying ice cream and taking pictures. It was really fun,” she added.
The Colorado Springs business has “a very, very loyal following,” Krakauer said. “In the wintertime, there are still lines.”
Krakauer said he’s beginning to see the grandchildren of his original customers: three generations of people, eating and enjoying their ice cream.
Contact info: 111 E. Pikes Peak Ave., 632-0299
Years in business: 27
Number of employees: Six in the winter, 12 in the summer