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The Legend of the Ice Cream King

The Ice Cream Depot has been making people smile for over 30 years.

Mike Rogiani.

Mike Rogiani is the ice cream king, and he has a golden spoon and title card framed in his office to prove it. How did he get this title? Well, it’s not just because he is the Guinness World Records™ holder for creating the world’s largest ice cream sundae; it’s more than the fact that he services areas of Alberta, North West Territories, Yukon and parts of British Columbia. It supersedes the fact that he has a depot in Calgary and headquarters in Edmonton, with a robust 31,500 square foot warehouse (with an additional 4,000 square foot freezer under construction), managed by over 30 employees. It is not the fact his warehouse has a capacity for 1,500 pallet of ice cream (which loosely translates to ice cream as far as the eye can see). What makes Mike the undisputed ice cream king is that he lives, loves, breathes and eats all things ice cream – every day. He is the owner, general manager, ice cream scooper, marketer and face of the Ice Cream Depot; and as he’s happy to point out, it’s a very sweet job.

“Back in 1980, I was in Seattle, Washington on the pier,” Mike recounts. “There were people at this ice cream shop lined up around the block waiting for a hand-made waffle cone. Intrigued, I waited in line and I got one. The warm cone, the ice cream slowly melting, the smell, the cherry on top – incredible! When I came back to Edmonton, I couldn’t get that cone out of my mind.”

Eager to recreate the taste sensation and customer satisfaction he witnessed in Washington, Mike sourced two waffle irons and started selling cones at trade shows and fairs.

“Lineups were incredible!” he laughs. “I called it the Monster Cone. I started selling large volumes of Palm Dairies ice cream – so much that they asked me to distribute for them, too. After Palm Dairies got bought out, I was the first to distribute Häagen-Dazs® in Western Canada. After they got bought out, I became part of the Ben and Jerry’s network when it came to Canada.”

Then he met the Chapmans.

Mike smiles, “Twenty years ago, Dave and Penny Chapman asked me to be a master distributor for their brand. I was the first to bring Chapman’s® from Ontario to Western Canada.”

Chapman’s is family-friendly, carrying a wide range of options for adults (such as their creamy premium caramel praline in a tub) and children (wrapped cones in fun flavours and in sizes suitable for little hands). As the demand for ice cream continues to evolve, Mike sees that people want more natural products. He’s happy to note that Chapman’s has not changed their formula to meet this demand—they didn’t have to because they were already well ahead of the curve.

“Chapman’s has always been true to the form and always makes everything with 100 per cent natural cream, supporting the dairy farmers of Canada. Chapman’s hasn’t changed because they don’t need to.”

While the Ice Cream Depot’s flagship brand is Chapman’s, the distributorship carries 480 different types and sizes of ice cream, and it represents 11 brands. Mike also runs the Ice Cream Depot’s sister company, Royal Treats.

You’ve seen Royal Treats in action. If you have been at a trade show, festival, attraction or any other popular event in the city where there was an ice cream chest full of goodies, popcorn, cotton candy or pretzels for sale, chances are, it was from Royal Treats. “We do over 100 events per year!” says Mike.

Two very successful businesses haven’t slowed down the ice cream king one bit. He’s currently developing his own brand called Mike’s Ice Cream. It’s ice cream in kid’s-sized tubs, and it will come in delightful flavours, such as Mike’s marvelous malt, cookies n’ cream dream and Mike’s bubble gum burst. And that’s not all; Mike owns two dogs, both of which are welcome at the office. His dogs have inspired him to work on a new product line: ice cream treats for dogs!

“Everybody loves our product!” Beams Mike. “Nothing is better than seeing a kid get a scoop of ice cream and smiling. It’s just incredible!” This is exactly why the company’s tagline is making you smile. As countless adults can attest, getting a scoop of ice cream puts a big smile on their face, too.

Mike ensures as many people as possible in his distributorship region get to smile because of ice cream. “Since we have the only nut and gluten free ice cream in Canada, we have been able to donate a lot to schools and festivals,” he says. “I’ve been a local Edmontonian my whole life, and I enjoy giving back to the community.”

However, ice cream is not without its challenges. With two busy companies on the go and a slew of competitors all vying for the same shelf space in grocery stores, along with his own brands under development, Mike’s hands, and life, are very full.

“Market share and competing against the large multi-nationals in the industry is one of the Ice Cream Depot’s biggest challenges,” he confirms. “We are always pushing for shelf space, but it’s coming along. Consumers are demanding our product at store level, and that is very exciting.”

He continues, “I work seven days a week from April to the middle of September. It’s non-stop and I’m a very hands-on owner. It’s taken its toll. It’s very challenging as an entrepreneur because you have to be hands-on to see the business grow. I strive for teamwork and try to let the floor managers look after their divisions, from administration to operations to sales. I empower [the managers] to help us build and grow the business.”

In the end, it’s all worth it for Mike because he “knows that we are bringing happiness to everybody and making everyone smile. Our customers really enjoy the products and the quality of the products we have to offer.”

This year marks the Ice Cream Depot’s 36th anniversary of business, and 20 years as a master distributor for Chapman’s.

“David and Penny Chapman have been amazing people to deal with. They have always treated me with the highest regard,” says Mike, going on to say that their business is so well organized, so well run and so highly respected that, when a fire destroyed part of their operations in Ontario, people and companies rallied to make sure Chapman’s didn’t miss a single delivery.

In addition to being grateful to the Chapmans for their leadership and support, Mike heaps scoops of praise on his employees (especially the ones that work in the large -30 Celsius freezer); his three daughters that help with the business and the development of new flavours; the late Don Young, whom Mike hails as an “inventor and guru of ice cream”; each and every client and every man, woman and child that loves to eat ice cream.

“My favourite flavour is rocky road,” says Mike. “That’s dark chocolate with a ribbon of marshmallow and walnuts running through it. It’s kind of like my life story. Dark moments but a continuous stream of sweetness and light, albeit a few stumbling blocks along the path. If there is one thing being the ice cream king has taught me, it’s never quit; never give up. And eat a scoop of ice cream every day.”

Mike created the world’s largest sundae in Edmonton on July 1988. It weighed 54,914 pounds, 13 ounces. It took 44,689 pounds, 8 ounces of ice cream; 9,688 pounds, 2 ounces of syrup and 537 pounds, 3 ounces of toppings to pull off this massive feat. At one point, Mike also made the world’s largest milkshake, but that record has since been slurped up a company in the UK.