Vestavia’s newest Thai rolled ice cream concept isn’t quite what we expected after seeing its sleek branding online. What we found was a 19-year-old UAB student (and 2016 VHHS graduate) who learned to cook in his family’s restaurant, The Ranch House, and now has launched his own brand in the back of his dad’s multifaceted convenience store, Everyday Café, Food Market and More on Columbiana Road. The Roll Up entrance is now across from Watkins Cleaners and Arby’s on McGuire Road in the former Everyday Café & Wood Fire Pizza and Wings space. Here’s what Ahmed has to say about it all.
How did you end up in the rolled ice cream business?
Ten months ago a friend and I were trying to think of a business idea. One day I opened my Snapchat and saw a story about rolled ice cream in New York. I thought it looked pretty cool and knew we didn’t have anything like that here. I started saving money and thought up the brand Roll Up that my friend Mat designed. I bought a machine from China, and it broke. The second one broke too. So I waited until the summer and built my chalkboard menu. I asked my dad for a little tiny spot in the corner of the store if I paid rent. I didn’t have enough money to buy signs or anything, but I opened hoping to build off word of mouth.
And then what happened?
The most amazing thing. These Vestavia Hills families were coming in and loving it. One lady came in and posted it on “What’s Happening in Vestavia” on Facebook. I showed up the next morning to open at 1 p.m., and there was a line at 12:00. I had a line out the door until after I closed. I was thinking, “This is awesome!” I thought it might have been a Memorial Day fluke, but it stayed the same for several days.
Then my machine broke, so I had to close to fix it. I ordered two new machines and asked my dad if, since I had so many customers, I could use the former Everyday Café space in the back of the store. We worked out a deal and did some remodeling, and we reopened for good in early July. I had looked at places to rent in Homewood and Mountain Brook, but I remembered all the people who made me and wanted to keep it in Vestavia since they are helping me out. Now we have the largest sit-in area ice cream shop in Birmingham, and I have patio seating.
Tell us about your ice cream base.
I had never made ice cream in my life, so I went looking for recipes online. I had to change my recipe at least 40 times until I got it. Sometimes it was too sweet or had too much vanilla. Since I developed my own recipe, it has a unique taste from other rolled ice cream places.
What should we order?
Most popular is Le Cookie which is a cookies and cream roll. The most unique ones I sell a lot are CTC (Cinnamon Toast Crunch) and Yabba Dabba Doo, which is Fruity Pebbles. It tastes like ice cream cereal, and it’s awesome. For the other flavors I asked friends and customers what sounded good, and what was the quickest and easiest for me to do. All 10 consistently sell the same. There’s also one with Nutella and almonds, or ones with red velvet cake or smores or chocolate brownies or Reese’s or peppermint patties or strawberries or Ferrero Rocher.
I am going to change my hours from 1-9 p.m. to 3-10 p.m. when the school year starts, and I am planning to hire high school students. I want to do different promotions like discounts for coming in in your Rebel jersey or bringing in a good report card.