Truffle shuffle, Foxy Brown, Brady Bunch—these are just a few of the pop culture–inspired flavors whipped up at Mikey Likes It Ice Cream in NYC's East Village. But nine years ago, Michael "Mikey" Cole, the man behind the frosty delights, was serving something different: "I spent six months at Rikers Island for the intent to sell marijuana," says Cole, a native New Yorker. "That time in my life was about having fun and being reckless, but things hit home when I was arrested."

Determined to course-correct once he'd done his time, Cole, now 37, graduated from college and held various jobs until the death of his aunt Lucy—"She used to tell me, 'Don't go left when you're supposed to go right'"—led him to pinpoint his passion. While cleaning out her apartment, Cole discovered her cookbook collection, including a recipe for vanilla ice cream. He bought an ice cream maker and began fussing with her formula. "It took me away from everything," he says. Six attempts later, Cole perfected his triple vanilla treat, Ice Ice Baby, and began selling pints out of his apartment.

In 2014, Cole opened his own shop blocks from where he grew up. But no matter how popular he becomes (Jay Z is a fan of his D'Ussé de Leche, a mix of caramel and the hip-hop star's cognac), Cole is committed to his neighborhood. "For me, ice cream is about encouraging other Mikeys to start businesses and give back," says Cole, "just like my aunt taught me." How sweet he is.


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