On a mission to open a frozen dessert franchise, Joel and Nancy Covitz have brought Milkster Nitrogen Creamery to a fast-growing part of southwest Lakeland. It’s in a shopping plaza with a new Publix store at County Line Road and Pipkin Road.
The Milkster brand, which started in Michigan and now has six locations, features ice cream made with liquid nitrogen – they call it “nicecream” – coffee, and milkshakes.
“We basically let you create your own masterpiece of ice cream,” Joel Covitz explained. “We have the opportunity to provide unlimited flavors because we make it right there.”
When they make the “nicecream” in front of the customer, Covitz said, they put a creamy base in a bowl, then add liquid nitrogen to instantly freeze it. Then, they add the mix-ins the customer requested, such as chocolate chips, Nutella, or cookie dough. Then, they mix it up and the “nicecream” is then served to the guest.
“It’s an experience because you get to see the whole process. It’s almost like a science experiment where you take a liquid that’s -320 degrees and you see the steam coming off of it,” Covitz said.
The ”nicecream” costs .89 per ounce; Covitz said the average cup of “nicecream” costs customers around $5-$6 for the small cup.
Covitz added they also have a vegan base that accommodates people who are lactose intolerant. It is made with coconut and almond milk.
Covitz is originally from Boston. This is he and his wife’s second stint living in Lakeland. They returned to Lakeland around 2019 after his wife Nancy fought and survived breast cancer. With a background in health administration management, he said she was ready to be her own boss and open a business.
“We fell in love with the product more than anything, so we decided to jump in,” Covitz explained.
The couple had visited several Milkster Nitrogen creameries in Michigan before making the decision to buy the franchise in 2021.
“We’re happy to be the first Milkster in Florida to open and we’re happy to be the first nitrogen ice cream place in the Lakeland/Polk County area. It’s a whole different experience and approach to dessert ,” Covitz said, adding that they aspire to open another franchise location in the future.
“The product is a very high-end product,” Covitz said. “It’s super fresh, super creamy, [and] it’s very, very dense. It doesn’t sit in a freezer for months. “
To assist customers in choosing flavors, Covitz said they provide recipe cards. There are also toppings available to add on top of the ice cream.
They’ve also added “nicecream” milkshakes to their menu as well as a wide variety of espresso and cappuccino specialty drinks using La Colombe coffee.
Covitz addressed questions customers may have about safety. “All the liquid nitogren at that point is burnt off. It’s evaporated. There’s no danger or anything like that. Nitrogen is 78 percent of the air we breathe so it’s a very safe item. It just looks dangerous. It’s a very safe item. It just looks dangerous because of the smoke coming off of it but it’s really not,” he said.
Liquid nitrogen has long been used safely in retail food preparation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in a 2018 advisory. The advisory noted that it is important that the liquid nitrogen be completely evaporated before it is served, a practice that Milkster observes. One of the items Milkster serves is a cereal puff product called dragon’s breath, which requires special care in the freezing process.
The couple chose the location because it was in a shopping plaza with a Publix supermarket.
“We were lucky enough to find this place and got in it. The good news is that we know that Publix does their homework, and the development around here is going to explode. There are homes going up right on Pipkin and County Line Road here going into Plant City so it’s really great for future development and business,” Covitz said.
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