Dominic ’98 and Kristel Johnson ’00: Isabella's Ice Cream

One afternoon, Dominic Johnson ’98 and his wife, Kristel Johnson ’00, watched a beat-up ice cream truck rumble through their neighborhood. “And I said to Kristel, sort of kidding, that if someone could build a non-creepy ice cream truck, they’d have a business,” Dominic Johnson recalls. 

The idea stuck. “I kept brainstorming, and that’s when I came up with the concept of an old-fashioned ice cream truck — one that was the complete opposite of an ugly ice cream van.”

Soon, the couple had a unique concept for combining nostalgia with modern, environmentally sound practices. Today, Isabella’s Ice Cream, named for the first of their two daughters, can be found at events around the Tucson community in a replica Ford Model T. The look is old fashioned, but the vehicle is electric and the freezers are solar powered. And, for a touch of both Wildcat pride and sustainability, the truck was constructed using former McKale Memorial Center floorboards. 

Then there’s the ice cream itself. Batched in Tucson, it features prime ingredients like Madagascar vanilla beans, Green Valley pecans, and blended Brazilian coffees. And there’s no need to wait for an event to treat yourself; you can find Isabella’s in the freezer case at Whole Foods and Safeway. 

The secret to this company’s growing success? Follow your dreams, but temper them with thoughtfulness, hard work — and plenty of perseverance. “I feel like we’re just about there,” Dominic Johnson says. “It’s funny. I’ve felt that way for several years — that success was just around the corner. But I think that now I can really say it.”