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KOKOS Plant Based Ice Cream opens Door County location

Entrepreneurs bring new dessert option to Sister Bay

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June 17, 2024

SISTER BAY – With Wisconsin being the land of dairy, it’s no surprise ice cream is a celebrated summer staple – especially in Door County.

However, two entrepreneurs decided to churn a little innovation into this traditional dessert – all with the help of plants.

Wisconsin-native Sam Brooker and his wife, Jerusa van Lith – founders and owners of KOKOS Plant Based Ice Cream – recently opened the shop’s second location – its first in Wisconsin.

The couple opened their first KOKOS location in Nashville, Tennessee, before choosing a second location on Wisconsin’s peninsula.

First music, then dessert

Brooker said KOKOS Plant Based Ice Cream – located at 2363 Mill Road, adjacent to Sister Bay beach – offers organic, vegan specialties, which he describes as a cross between European-style gelato and American hard ice cream but with a healthier twist.

The shop itself, Brooker said, was inspired by music.

“We often compare the creation of KOKOS to that of a song,” he said. “We dreamed up something that didn’t exist, created it and shared it with people hoping they would feel something good – just like a great song.”

Growing up in Green Bay, Brooker said he spent many summers in Door County, so it made sense to open a second shop in Sister Bay.

“When the space became available, we knew it would be the perfect spot to create the most magical ice cream shop,” he said.

The Sister Bay ice cream shop, Sam Brooker said, was inspired by music. Submitted Photo

Before there was ice cream, Brooker said he and his wife had successful careers in the music industry.

“I had the honor of publishing one of the biggest country songs of all time, ‘Cruise’ by Florida Georgia Line,” he said. “We’ve also had songs in movies and have been signed to record labels.”

True to his roots, Brooker said his band also used to play at local bars in Door County, making the area even more fitting for his business.

“I have many fond memories (of the region),” he said.

The KOKOS brand, Brooker said, was listed as one of Nashville’s Top 8 Spots in US Weekly and has had many celebrity visitors – which he said raises the bar for the Wisconsin location.

A sweet challenge 

Like with any business, starting takes endless commitment and preparation – which Brooker said in his case also meant lots of taste testing – a perk of the trade.

“We knew it could be a challenge to bring ‘plant based’ to Dairyland, but we like a good challenge,” he said.

Brooker said they were intentional with the entire process, including when it came to naming their business.

With his wife being from Amsterdam, KOKOS, a Dutch variation for “coconut,” he said, was chosen as the shop’s name.

As a nod back to his musical journey, Brooker said there is also a humorous element to the shop’s namesake.

“If you want KOKO’s with an apostrophe, go to my bass player, Chris Hanaway’s sushi restaurant in Green Bay,” he said. “It’s good, and we laugh about unknowingly sharing a similar name.”

All jokes aside, Brooker said the business name also hints at the main ingredient of KOKOS’ planted-based product – coconut.

KOKOS Plant Based Ice Cream is located at 2363 Mill Road in Sister Bay. Submitted Photo

“After experimenting with making ice cream, we realized our ice cream exceeded the creaminess of dairy ice cream,” he said. “It’s easy to love delicious things, plant-based or not.”

An inclusive way to indulge 

The couple said they are proud of the work they have put into KOKOS, especially their efforts in creating an inclusive product for those with allergies or food sensitivities.

“We make our ice cream in-house, fresh daily,” he said. “We know exactly what goes into it. It’s an organic base with high-end ingredients.”

Brooker said the brand emphasizes natural ingredients, which are at the forefront of all offerings.

“We don’t use any artificial colors,” he said. “For example, we use red beet powder, chlorophyll, turmeric and blue butterfly pea flower powder to bring our ice creams to life with vibrant colors.” 

Brooker said though the ice cream available in his shop is a healthier alternative – “you wouldn’t know it when you’re eating it.”

“It’s still a sweet treat and still has sugar, but we use organic evaporated cane sugar,” he said. 

The dipping cabinet at KOKOS, Brooker said, is stocked daily with 12 flavors, including classics like Green Mint Chip, Cookies n’ Kream and Chocolate.

Customers, he said, can also enjoy fruity flavors, such as She’s a Peach or Strawberry Fields – which features jams from the Loveless Cafe in Nashville.

“We are known to be safe ice cream for those with dietary issues,” he said. “We use separate scoops for gluten flavors, and we don’t use egg or nuts.”

Crafting their ice cream in the shop and being mindful of the ingredients, Brooker said, is important to him and his wife.

“You won’t find a product like ours in a grocery store,” he said.

Brooker said he wanted KOKOS to be unlike other ice cream shops by focusing on natural, high-quality ingredients.

Customers, he said, can satisfy their sweet tooth at KOKOS knowing the utmost care was placed on the quality and sourcing of their treat.

Furthermore, Brooker said KOKOS promises its ice cream will procure an experience like no other.

“It can be served warmer like gelato or colder like American hard ice cream,” he said. “The texture is velvety, not icy, smooth with a clean finish – there is no heaviness when you’ve finished eating it.”

The base ingredient in KOKOS Plant Based Ice Cream, Sam Brooker said, is coconut. Submitted Photo

Though the exact recipes are kept under wraps, Brooker said he has helpful proprietary tricks to create ice cream that accentuate flavors while mellowing out the coconut.

“Many dairy-loving ice cream fanatics either switch to KOKOS or make it a part of their love affair with creamy frozen treats,” he said. “It is ice cream for everyone.”

Here’s the scoop

Walking through the doors at KOKOS, Brooker said customers “can expect to have a great experience.”

“We hope to show the world how to make plant-based ice cream the right way,” he said.

Brooker said delicious spoonfuls aside, KOKOS doesn’t just serve ice cream but also coffee from local roaster Lawless.

Though KOKOS recently opened its second location, like any seasoned business owner, Brooker said he is already considering future growth – focused heavily on strategy. 

“We are in a phase of expansion, but again, we’re intentional about how we will grow,” he said.

Brooker said he receives requests every day about turning KOKOS into a franchise but doesn’t see his dream going that route.

“Our vision is to create an elite product with shops only in select cities around the world,” he said. “We don’t want it to be a mass-produced product that loses the heart of it.”

Ideally, Brooker said he would be happy if there was a cap of 20 locations globally, noting if that were to happen, he would personally visit them all.

But for now, he said his focus is on the new location and sharing his product with customers.

“We built our brand around our unique product,” he said. “You eat it and feel great – we love making people feel great.”

After all the hard work and opening the Wisconsin location, Brooker said he is especially thankful for his journey.

“My wife and I worked hard to bring KOKOS to life,” he said. “It was the beginning of our love story. The idea of KOKOS happened while we were dreaming. It led us to a marriage and a beautiful family together, and I’m forever grateful for what KOKOS has already done for us.”

KOKOS is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For more information, follow the brand on Facebook or the Sister Bay location on Instagram @kokossisterbay.

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