Gino Judd, left, and Andrew Hagee plan to open Cloud Nine Creamery at Westfield Southcenter early next year. The two own a plumbing business together and have decided to get into the ice cream business. HEIDI SANDERS, Tukwila Reporter

On Cloud Nine: Plumbers plan to open ice cream shop in Westfield Southcenter

When Din Tai Fung opened in Tukwila’s Westfield Southcenter mall this past spring, Andrew Hagee was inspired to open an ice cream shop next door.

Hagee and his wife, Taylor, frequented the Taiwanese restaurant’s University Village location and would grab ice cream from Molly Moon’s after dinner.

“Every time we would eat at Din Tai Fung, you’d walk out and smell waffle cones, and it just sucks you in,” he said. “We would go downstairs and we would eat Molly Moon’s. We found out (Din Tai Fung) was opening (at Southcenter) and we were like the problem is now we’ve lost our ice cream.

“Gino (Judd) and I were walking the mall one day,” he continued, “and were like it would be really cool if there was a cool ice cream shop in this corridor, so we just started brainstorming.”

Hagee and Judd are business partners who own and operate Kent-based Ally Plumbing.

“We met at another plumbing shop,” Hagee said. “We just didn’t like how they ran things. They were commission based. We are more about taking care of people, so we just started our own thing.”

The duo opened their company two years ago with two trucks, and since then the fleet has expanded to 14. Their wives work in the office of what they call the family-and-friend-owned business.

After the dream of starting an ice cream shop was born, Hagee and Judd looked at several options for franchises, but nothing panned out.

“One of our closest friends asked us one time, ‘What happened with that ice cream thing?’ ” Hagee said. ” ‘Oh, it never worked out.’ (The friend asked) ‘Have you guys ever heard of liquid nitrogen ice cream?’ We were like, ‘No idea. Never heard of it. What is it?’ He showed us, and we were like that is perfect. That is what we will put there.”

Hagee and Judd met with the Southcenter leasing manager and learned that the storefront right next door to Din Tai Fung was available. The space, next to Sears, had been occupied by MasterCuts.

The business partners got the keys to the space on Sept. 1 and hope to open Cloud Nine Creamery early next year.

“We had our own idea and we just did our own thing,” Hagee said. “It is not a franchise. Maybe one day it will be. We want to do maybe five locations. This is just the start.”

Ice cream will be made fresh in the store by piping liquid nitrogen into mixers with cream and other essential ingredients to make the frozen treat.

“Once that liquid nitrogen hits that cream it actually freezes it into ice cream in six seconds,” Hagee said. “The whole concept and point of liquid nitrogen is, not only can you make it from scratch, but the faster you freeze ice cream the more it reduces ice crystals. … Because you are freezing it so fast there’s hardly any ice crystals, so the ice cream is creamy. It is smooth. It’s pure bliss.”

They plan to use fresh baked goods, such as apple pie, New York cheesecake and cinnamon rolls, in the ice cream and want to have some Asian-inspired flavors like ube, green tea and red bean.

The shop has a lab-like feel. Customers walk through a giant beaker to enter the store, are able to see the ice cream being made and can take selfies in lab coats with the nitrogen tanks in the background.

“We wanted to make sure it wasn’t just getting in line to get ice cream,” Hagee said. “It is an experience with ice cream.”

Smoke from the liquid nitrogen will stream into the mall, enticing potential customers.

“People down the hall are going to be like, ‘Is that place on fire? What’s going on?’ ” Hagee said.

Hagee and Judd want to use the ice cream making process to educate children and interest them in science. They are partnering with Pacific Science Center in Seattle to offer classes about liquid nitrogen at the shop. Schools could take field trips to the store to learn about how the ice cream is made and then sample it.

“If someone had showed me you could take liquid nitrogen and do all this stuff and make ice cream and I had a cool trip on that, maybe it would have changed my perspective on focusing on science,” Hagee said.

After Cloud Nine Creamery opens, Hagee and Judd plan to keep their plumbing company operating, splitting their time between the businesses.

Hagee and his wife live in the Kent/Auburn area with their two children, Conner, 4, and Alivia, 1. Judd and his wife, Jane, live in Puyallup and have three children, Chase, 20, Cierra, 16, and Crimson, 14.

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