Stores

An ice-cream influencer has a new flavor for retail

Dylan Lemay is a star on TikTok and YouTube for setting scoops of ice cream aloft. Now he’s flying high himself with his first store.
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Andrew Adam Newman

· 3 min read

Last Thursday was a scorcher in New York, the sort of day where you emerge from the subway shiny-faced to unspeakable smells rising from the sidewalk. But it couldn’t have been more different inside 65 Bleecker Street in the Noho neighborhood of Manhattan, where the smell of freshly made waffle cones filled the chilled air.

It was the day before the opening of Catch’n, a new ice cream shop from Dylan Lemay, who appears much younger than his 25 years. In 2020, Lemay, who is from Taylor, Michigan, was working at Cold Stone Creamery when he started posting videos on TikTok of him throwing scoops of ice cream for customers and coworkers to catch in their cups or cones.

  • All that catching, fittingly, caught on. Today Lemay has 11.2 million followers on TikTok and 3.73 million subscribers on YouTube.

“If you want, you can really go hibachi on it,” Lemay told us, as he leaned over a cold slab and made a chopping motion using his steel spades to mix freeze-dried strawberries and Golden Oreos into ice cream.

You’d be forgiven if at first you mistook this for just another trendy ice cream shop, because it has the trappings of one. But here’s the scoop: This is serving up the social media content-creator-as-a-brand trend in a big way. And the cherry on top? Venture capital is behind it, and a dollop of forward-thinking store design.

Totally Tube-ular. Chris Camillo, an early-stage investor and finance guru who co-founded Dumb Money, which also has a popular YouTube channel  and podcast, told us he’s invested “just over” $1 million in Catch’n, and that “just over” $2 million has been raised for the venture to date. The initial seed round for the project in November of 2021 raised $1.5 million.

Others in the funding round also have a big social media presence:

  • One investor is Milad Mirg, who posted behind-the-scenes videos as a Subway sandwich maker and has 3.47 million subscribers and more than 2.3 billion views for his YouTube videos.
  • Another investor is Joanne Molinaro (The Korean Vegan), who has 860,000 subscribers and more than 246 million views on YouTube.
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“I’ve been an early-stage investor for 15 years,” said Camillo, who flew in from Dallas for the store opening. “I’ve invested in over 70 early-stage companies. And…the issue that pops up most often is a founder’s ability to acquire customers at scale at a reasonable cost.”

Camillo said that the store will be filming live from the store on YouTube every day, which is the kind of exposure that you can’t pay for and—as a matter of fact—they don’t need to.

“So customers around the world can see our ice-cream performers on a regular basis and hopefully, when they walk in the door, they’ll recognize the performers here,” Camillo said. “And really we have content creation on YouTube to thank for that, right? YouTube allows us the medium to develop those relationships with our future customers.”

Freeze frame. Catch’n was designed by MG2, and Melissa Gonzalez—a principal at MG2 and founder of The Lionesque Group, which is owned by MG2—told us why the ice cream, which is made on-site, is made in clear view in a kitchen behind a wall of glass.

“It’s retail theater,” she said.

But Gonzalez also told us that the glass, in every sense, sends a clear message.

“The audience is going to span beyond Gen Z,” she said. But Gen Z especially, she said, is “wanting that transparency.”

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