Lemon ginger custard, ice tea sorbet, loaded brownie and oatmeal cookie ice cream flavors beckon frozen concoction connoisseurs to the heart of Donelson’s Music Valley district.
Mimi’s Ice Cream and Coffee Shoppe filled a much-needed niche with the new shop that opened June 4 in the same building as Caney Fork River Valley Grill. The owners took advantage of the COVID-19-induced shutdown to “make good things happen” and revamped their 10,000-square-foot restaurant in the former Nashville Palace building to add Mimi’s to the mix, said Dane Barhonovich, 24, who manages both the restaurant and shop in their family owned business that opened in 2009.
Their first day of business featured more than 105 customers in a 4.5-hour timeframe. Take a step back into the 1960s with a black-and-white checkered ceiling, a shiny floor and ’60s décor everywhere. There are original hot fudge sundae 20 cents signs, multicolored spoons and stickers and an ambiance charming for those anyone 1 to 99. There’s also outside space.
“The response has been outstanding,” Barhonovich said. “We took a poll during research and found out this area wanted an ice cream and coffee shop.”
Baskin Robbins closed a while back, but when the Barhonovichs dreamed up Mimi’s, the corporate ice cream shop was still in the mix, but they knew their ice cream would melt the hearts of dessert lovers.
No one could get fresher ice cream or coffee unless they churned it on their back porch or picked the beans in Columbia.
And, yes, “Mimi” is a real person.
“She’s my grandma,” said Barhonovich. “We’ve always dreamed of a family-run restaurant. Mimi is an outstanding cook. She’s 87, and our dishes at Caney Fork River Valley Grill come from her famous catfish and barbecue recipes and Creole seasonings, among many other family favorites.”
Creole sums it up. Mimi was born and raised in Biloxi, Mississippi.
“Mimi is also an outstanding baker,” Barhonovich said. “She supplied treats in her neighborhood for years. She was the good-treat lady.”
Mimi’s has been the family’s dream and homage to grandma the past two years as they conceived exactly what type of old-fashioned ice cream and coffee shop they wanted to give the community. Barhonovich lives in Donelson. It was important their ice cream and coffee beans were locally sourced.
“We wanted to bolster the Nashville community,” said Barhonovich.
Well-known Nashville businesswoman Jenny Piper’s Pied Piper Creamery was wiped out by the March tornado, but she’s wholesale now. She’s where Barhonovich sources their ice cream.
“Our ice cream is custom made to order,” he said. “We get it two days later, versus weeks. Jenny has over 200 flavors to choose from, but we come to her with crazy flavor ideas, and the answer is never no. She’s not corporate and loves to create our funky flavors.”
They take suggestions from people all the time. In their restaurant, a diner ordered both the banana pudding and a peanut butter chocolate dessert.
“He laughed and said, ‘This could be the Elvis special,’” said Barhonovich.
They took that whimsical suggestion to heart.
“It will be on our next ice cream order,” Barhonovich said.
At any given time, there are about 18-32 different flavors of ice cream offerings. They will change with the seasons, and of course, they have pastime favorites such as vanilla and chocolate. Add tasty sorbets, ice cream sodas, root beer floats, banana splits, milk shakes and more. Also, are house-made waffle cones, sugar cones and all sorts of sprinkles.
For those who want a little kick and warmth, Mimi’s offers coffees from around the word, and they are also supplied by another local source.
“What’s so cool about it, the beans are flash frozen and sent to our source, New Geneva Roasters,” said Barhonovich. “He gets them fresh and roasts them.”
Their dark is Papua, New Guinea, their medium roast is Mexican Juracka, and for drip and iced, they use a Honduran bean.
Mimi’s expresso machine whips up lattes and cappuccinos and tons of hot and cold coffee mixtures.
“We make anything you can get at Starbucks, but 10 times fresher,” said Barhonovich.
Opening up a brand-new shop in the midst of one the most challenging times in U.S. history did not intimidate Barhonovich.
“We are not intimidated,” he said. “Confidence is key. We are a family type atmosphere. Sure, we could be timid. But being strong created this.”
The tourist industry is nearly nil with Opryland Hotel across the street still under certain regulations, but Mimi’s is enjoying the surge from locals.
“We look forward to the tourists coming soon,” said Barhonovich. “But, we are savoring this time to get to know our locals and want them to not be intimidated and shy away when things get going around here again. We are hoping to make a new, fun spot for our locals. We want them to create everlasting memories here.”
Through June, Mimi’s will be open Mondays through Thursdays from 4-10 p.m. and Fridays and Sundays from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. In July, it’s planned to be open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. Mimi’s is at 2400 Music Valley Drive.