They say the best way to be good at your job is to love it. For Rob Hess, his business is more than a job -- it’s a passion. Hess is the owner of Go! Ice Cream, located in an alley in downtown Ypsilanti at 10 N. Washington St.
Hess started Go! Ice Cream out of his home while also being a videographer for the University of Michigan and started taking classes on food sanitation and preparation. What started out as a hobby eventually caught the attention of his friends and family members who wanted to have a taste of the ice cream he made.
“I just fell in love with the science behind ice cream,” Hess said. “I fell in love with the quest to make flavors I love.”
Hess found a space in downtown to call home. “The first three years, I was making the ice creams out of a rented kitchen at Bona Sera, and I’d sell them on our website and at the farmers market,” said Hess.
Hess would also use a trike he nicknamed “George” to distribute his goods to other parts of Ypsilanti. This idea originally started as a joke suggestion that poked fun at his interests in both bikes and ice cream. Hess eventually saw how this could be seen as a unique opportunity to market his ice cream. “Before you knew it, I was a 40-year-old guy wearing spandex while riding a tricycle to sell at the market,” Hess said.
Getting a more permanent brick-and-mortar site was a tricky part to making his dreams a reality. The first part was trying to find the perfect place for the shop.
“It was super important for me to find a place in downtown or Depot Town,” Hess said. “It’s important for people to see how things here are made.”
He eventually acquired a building on Washington Street originally built in 1907 that started as a wine bar. “Washington Street, to me, is a place full of potential.”
He had a crowdfunding campaign that raised $85,000 to renovating the century old building.
Eventually, it all started to come into place. Go! Ice Cream finally opened their downtown Ypsilanti location, July 30, 2016. At the time, the shop only offered three flavors; Three Bean Vanilla Ice Cream, Chocolate Sorbet and Sweet Bread Butter. Now, they currently have six flavors.
“I like to take flavors and tastes I love, and reengineer them to make them into an ice cream that reminds folks about why those flavors are popular in the first place,” Hess said.
Go! Ice Cream aims to be a business that supports the local Ypsilanti community. When Hess first moved to Ypsilanti in 2008, he still had ties to Ann Arbor due to his work with the University of Michigan.
“When we first moved to Ypsi, we worked in Ann Arbor,” Hess said. “We’d wake up in Ypsi, work in Ann Arbor and we’d sleep in Ypsi.”
Building his business helped him become a bigger part of the Ypsilanti community. Since August, Go! Ice Cream has been involved in events such as Super Hero Nation, Ypsi Pride and supported Ypsilanti Community Schools.
“Ypsilanti changed me as a person, and with this business, I can reinvest in Ypsilanti, as well.”