How Dylan Lemay turned his ice cream day job into an NYC storefront
Dylan Lemay was a high school student when he began working at his local ice cream store. It’s a job he kept as he continued through college and even after he graduated in 2018. It wasn’t until 2020 that he decided to start filming videos of his ice cream-making skills — from creating sorbet roses to getting inventive with flavor requests. He was curious about the world of content making, and putting videos up online was admittedly just a way to fill his time during the pandemic.
But the rest, as they say, is history. Two years after those first few videos, Dylan now has more than 3.69 million subscribers and is opening his very own ice cream shop, CATCH’N, in New York City on July 29. The store is a true symbol of his success as a creator, with a YouTube plaque mounted in the store and flavors of the month collabs to come with other creators.
We caught up with Dylan amidst the final touches before his grand opening to talk more about his journey from creator to business owner.
Ice cream has been a part of your life for such a long time. So how did you decide to finally become an ice cream content creator?
I started working with ice cream when I was 15. Even after college, there was a Cold Stone I worked at and the owners offered me a position to be manager. So I was like,”Of course! Work with ice cream or get an adult job? I'm going to work with ice cream.”
During the pandemic lockdown, I wanted to find creative ways to share my job with people. As I started to post videos online, people were quickly responding to them. And so I just got this addiction to the process of making videos and the easiest way to do that was to make it about what I was doing every day, which was work. People loved the ice creams and began to love me, too, I guess!
You never know what's really going on with somebody on the other side of the video screen, so to be able to impact somebody and brighten their day through ice cream ... that's what I'm most excited for with the shop.” Dylan Lemay
Your channel starts out as just you doing your day-to-day job, but evolves into a lot of experimentation. How did this transition happen?
As I began posting more videos, my subscribers also began to inform the things that I do. I would read through comments and people are throwing out crazy ideas. And so it really just became this relationship or almost a conversation of, I make a video, they leave comments and those comments inspire the next video.
That’s really the inspiration behind CATCH’N, because now I can take all of that back and forth and give my subscribers a way to come in and then make videos with them here. This ice cream shop is our video studio, where now we could do this in real life instead of just doing it through the phone. You never know what's really going on with somebody on the other side of the video screen, so to be able to impact somebody and brighten their day through ice cream, through a smile and an experience, I think that's what I'm most excited for with the shop.
Hopefully, the New York store does really well and we're able to spread around the world in signature locations and really connect in that way. We’re also working on a ghost kitchen concept where my audience will be able to order ice cream cakes through their local distributors.
What are some of your favorite videos that you made through your subscribers' input?
That’s such a good question. Somebody once asked me to mix every single ingredient available when I worked at Cold Stone. I think it was almost 30-something ingredients — KitKats, cookie doughs, M&M's … all this stuff. And so I made that for them and people were just like, this is insane. There was no ice cream left by the time I mixed it all up!
How difficult was it to shift from being a digital content creator to going through the process of opening a brick-and-mortar store?
It is extremely, extremely difficult. Honestly, I know for a fact that I would've given up a long time ago if I did not have amazing people that have supported me along the way. I've had to learn so much.
You were quite open with that process and vlogged your entire journey to retail, which captured a fairly magical moment…
That’s right! Last summer, I posted YouTube videos of us looking at all the potential store locations. There was a list of 15 or so, but we probably saw about eight. As we walked out of one of the locations, we looked across the street and we were like, “Why haven't we seen that one?" It was in a super beautiful, historic building in New York. I didn't think it was possible.
Luckily, when we asked, the landlord's son happened to be a subscriber of mine and had watched my videos! He told his dad, "You have to do this!" And so the stars really aligned. If I didn't make videos, we wouldn't have this spot.
That’s incredible. I mean, talk about fate, right?
Exactly. When we saw the spot, we were like, this is so beautiful, we have to get it. And thankfully, by his kid being a fan of mine, it worked out. It's crazy.
So now that you’re opening your own ice cream shop, how will you plan to balance being a content creator and a business store owner?
It's strange to me because I realized that I've been building a community for a decade now, even before I started making videos, because while working, I was connecting with these people every day. And through YouTube, I've been able to connect with people on a bigger scale.
The great thing about this store is that it’s also my content studio, one that also happens to sell ice cream. Part of my content will be engaging with the audience — that'll be my videos when I work a shift and serve the line. And then there'll be some mornings where I do behind the scenes — those long-form videos of us creating all of the different, crazy things.
What do you look forward to the most in this next phase of your creator journey?
You know, I've done small little events at different ice cream shops and it's always been so fun to see the lineup and the different kids. When somebody walks in and you think the kid is the fan, you realize it's the mom. Moments like that are so fun where you're just surprised the whole time!
We're in a changing world where now anyone can be a content creator and anyone can upload a video and it can change their life. My story's a great example of that. ” Dylan Lemay
And to those fans, the kids and moms and everyone in between, what would you say to those who’ve watched and been inspired by you story?
We're in a changing world where now anyone can be a content creator and anyone can upload a video and it can change their life. My story's a great example of that. So if there's something that you love, there's something that you enjoy, find a fun way to share it with people through a video and it could change your life too!