A colorful mix of childhood cereals, Eastern Asian-inspired flavors and Instagrammable cones set Ice Cream Bae apart from other ice cream shops in Kansas City, said Adison Sichampanakhone and Jackie Faltermeier.
“We put extra attention into detail with every cone because customers are coming here for an experience, so it has to look perfect,” said Sichampanakhone, who co-founded and owns Ice Cream Bae — newly opened at Park Place in Leawood — with his girlfriend, Faltermeier. “We really try to hit home on the presentation and customer experience, as well as the flavor.”
Since launching in 2018 as a counter-front-shop in the Made in KC Marketplace on the Country Club Plaza, Ice Cream Bae has rapidly gained a customer base and social media following. With customers sometimes waiting about 45 minutes for ice cream at the popular Plaza spot, the couple realized citywide demand had outgrown the space.
The solution? Open their own storefront.
Ice Cream Bae officially unveiled its Leawood shop Nov. 6. The couple described the opening weekend as “a blur” but expressed gratitude for everyone who came out to support them amid pleasant fall weather.
“We did not expect it to be as busy as it was,” Sichampanakhone said.
“With COVID, I feel like a lot more people are trying to support local businesses,” Faltermeier added. “And this [past] weekend, it was really nice to see family and friends get ice cream and be together outside. We’ve been missing that all year.”
The couple originally wanted to open their storefront earlier in the year, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back their plans. Ultimately, the shop has been worth the wait, Sichampanakhone said.
“Our personalities are in every detail of the shop — from the plant wall down to the floor tile to the colors we chose,” Sichampanakhone said. “It was really cool seeing this vision become a reality.”
“We love that we get to be creative with the ice cream, and this [storefront] really took what we are able to do to another level,” Faltermeier noted.
Ice Cream Bae closed its Made in KC Marketplace location, but the duo plans to reopen in the space in spring or summer 2021.
Click here to check out Ice Cream Bae creations on Instagram.
Fusing backgrounds and flavors
Sichampanakhone has been experimenting with entrepreneurial spirit since 2012 when he opened Boh Bah, a boba and smoothie shop, at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park.
Faltermeier is a nurse who works at Saint Luke’s Hospital on the Plaza and never thought much about entrepreneurship, she said. Once the two started dating, an ice cream venture that pulled inspiration from across the globe found its way to the table.
“It’s wild,” Faltermeier said with a smile. “I definitely never imagined we would actually have an ice cream shop … And in both nursing and the food industry, the main focus is to take care of people and treat them like family.”
With the creative freedom of being one’s own boss, the two have worked to showcase both traditional favorites and Eastern Asian-inspired flavors. Sichampanakhone, whose family is from Laos and Thailand, said he feels his cultural heritage unintentionally inspires the flavors he chooses to offer.
“I’m definitely a vanilla-guy, but I love introducing customers to Ube and matcha,” Sichampanakhone said. “They’re always surprised because they aren’t expecting that kind of flavor, and a lot of people really like it.”
Ice Cream Bae’s “swirl machine” also allows customers to create their own flavors by mixing in various sweets, cereals and fruit. Customer-customization is a crucial part of the business, the couple noted.
Click here to check out Ice Cream Bae’s menu.
Opening an ice cream shop during a pandemic might seem tricky enough, but Sichampanakhone and Faltermeier also pursued two other food ventures at the Iron District in North Kansas City.
Sno Buh — another adventurous soft-serve venture — and Thaiger, which serves a mix of Thai comfort and street food, debuted in late May as vendors found in Iron District’s shipping containers.
“When [Iron District] approached us, it was a scary time because we still had no idea what we were going to do with our future,” Sichampanakhone said, “but we knew we wanted to be a part of what they were doing.”
Click here to learn more about the Iron District concept.
The two first agreed to open Sno Buh in one of the containers, they recalled. But when the owner of the Iron District came to them asking if they knew anyone who could do Asian food, it was a “Why Not?” moment.
“Thaiger is based on home recipes from either my mom or my uncle’s family,” Sichampanakhone said. “My cousin also owns Anousone in Strang Hall, so he was my food mentor. The food isn’t stuff you would really see on normal menus.”
Click here to read more about the Strang Hall concept in Overland Park.
Sno Buh is an experimental ice cream venture for more adventurous flavors, the couple explained. Regular vanilla is not an option there.
“We do flavors that you won’t typically get at Ice Cream Bae,” Sichampanakhone said. “Unless a certain flavor does really well, then we will bring it into [Ice Cream Bae’s] rotation.”
“And with Sno Buh, we focus more on a vegan option because Kind Foods in the Iron District is a fully vegan place; so they send a lot of their customers to us for vegan ice cream,” Faltermeier explained. “I had no idea there was such a big vegan community here until this year.”
With multiple, simultaneous operations, the couple admitted it sometimes feels like they are stretched thin.
“We’ve been blessed with a lot of good team members,” Sichampanakhone said, noting that his mother has taken over Boh Buh at Oak Park Mall and made it her own. “Our team is such an important part of it.”
Despite driving back and forth between their various ventures, the couple said that bringing joy to others through food and ice cream makes all the hard work worthwhile.
“I really love seeing people’s happy faces,” Sichampanakhone said. “That sounds cliché, but it brings me so much joy seeing people happy and posting pictures online of something I created.”
“A lady told me one time that she loves ice cream because, no matter how bad your day is, you can eat some ice cream and actually feel better,” Faltermeier recalled. “For us, it’s also about providing a place where all kinds of people — no matter their background — can come together and share ice cream.”