Kind Ice Cream
Kind Ice Cream's Queer Origins
By Marisa Peters
Edmonton’s beloved Kind Ice Cream, run by Candyce Morris, Nicole Bhar and Paula Shyba, was born out of a love for Edmonton, rather than a love for ice cream
“Ice cream was the medium,” says Bhar, “and who doesn’t love ice cream?”
But Kind was also born out of a love story between Bhar and Shyba. The pair were introduced to one another back in 2008, through Bhar’s sister and Kind co-owner Morris. “All of us connected right away but Paula and I had this extra special connection,” says Bhar.
At the time, both Bhar and Shyba were in relationships with men.
“It took us years to realize what it was, but our skin just tingled when we were near each other,” Bhar says about Shyba with a smile.
“I always knew that it was not a normal friendship, in terms of the intensity and love.” says Morris.
She recalls a trip where the sisters [Candyce and Nicole] were staying in an ashram in India with very little internet access.
“There was like one day a week where we had internet; so, I would be checking in with everyone back home and Nicole would sit there writing one long email to Paula,” says Morris.
“She was so annoyed,” laughs Bhar.
“It just wasn’t on our radar that we could be gay for each other,” jokes Shyba. “In our early twenties it was a lot more binary—either you’re gay or you’re straight.”
Shyba, who was raised in Calgary (but who insists on a loyalty to Edmonton and cheers for the Oilers, don’t worry) notes that her hometown had this vibrant social ice cream scene, where you could just pop out after dinner for a quick, low-commitment, community experience. Edmonton didn’t have that.
Kind’s two locations, one in Ritchie and one in Highlands, certainly bring that sense of community but Kind also brings the safety and connection that queer folks often find lacking.
“We wanted to create a space where our customers felt safe,” notes Morris.
“We want people to know that if you’re a small business, you can still be really vocal about your support for the queer community and remain successful,” says Shyba. “You can be specific and bold about what your values are. We wanted to take a chance. We thought Edmonton could handle a business like ours.”
Shyba says that they are fortunate not to have experienced many barriers being a queer-owned business, “besides someone who commented on Instagram that we only hire ‘LGB people’.”
The trio try to prioritize safety and representation for their employees and customers by doing things like prioritizing non-gendered language.
“Many of the staff are younger and for some of them, this is their first job,” adds Morris. “I hope that we’re setting a standard for other businesses. I hope our staff knows they should have that expectation of other employers.”
“The name Kind encapsulates the community piece we were going for. It’s simple, memorable and conveys a lot of our values. We want to be kind to the community, the environment…we want to be a kind employer,” says Shyba.
Kind’s birthday falls within Pride month; so, for the month of June, Kind is scooping a fan favourite flavour “Gay-OK” (a cereal milk base mixed with Froot Loops) and donating a portion of the profits to organizations supporting the LGBTQIA+ community.
Besides “Gay-OK”, Morris and Bhar recommend Birthday Cake as one of the gayer flavours. Shyba says, “Cold Brew—it’s definitely a lesbian ice cream flavour.”
In both locations a bold branding piece lights up the shops that reads “Be Kind Babies,” a spin on the quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.
“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”