Faces of Fourth: Kristel Johnson of Isabella’s Ice Cream

Faces of Fourth is a featured series on the folks that are the heart and soul of Historic Fourth Avenue. From the merchants who bring commerce to life, to the buskers who fill the avenue with sound, there are many people to celebrate on Fourth Avenue

Kristel Johnson of Isabella’s Ice Cream 

A little over nine years ago, a creepy ice cream truck dove by Kristel and Dominic Jonhson’s house. Dominic turned to his wife and said ”there has to be a better way.” The two of them set out to build a “non-creepy” ice cream truck and Isabella’s Ice Cream was born.
Inspired by his love for old cars, Dominic researched ice cream trucks from the 1920’s-1930’s and decided to combine the beauty of the past with today’s technology. Their trucks are modeled after the original 1920’s model-T trucks and have been restored, rebuilt, and converted into 100% electric vehicles with solar panels on their roof. They also built the wood body using reclaimed wood from basketball courts (from schools in southern AZ).  While Dominic was busy with the trucks, Kristel decided to start researching everything else from creating the business on paper (named after their oldest daughter, Isabella), to trying various wooden spoons and recycled paper napkins, and perfecting the ice cream recipes in our kitchen.
It took two years to take it from a concept to a reality and in August of 2010, they arrived on the scene with their first food truck. Business grew quickly and they opened up shop on Historic Fourth Avenue in November of 2016. 

If you’ve popped into Isabella’s, you’ve likely seen Kristel Johnson behind the counter scooping ice cream and chatting with customers. She’s become an friendly and familiar face on the Avenue. We sat down with her to find out what makes the Avenue so special to her. 

Dominick and Kristel Johnson of Isabella’s Ice Cream. Photo courtesy of Isabella’s Ice Cream.

When did the Avenue first start playing a major role in your life?

I’ve always loved the Fourth Avenue vibe…since college (so, like 20+ years ago!!). We opened our shop on the Avenue in November of 2016. For the past year it’s been our home, and I’ve come to know it well — all day, every day. 

 What’s one of your favorite things about the Avenue?

I love how eclectic Fourth Ave. is and since moving in here, we’ve really had an opportunity to get to know the other businesses. I love how supportive everyone is for each other, it’s a true “community.”

Where is one of your favorite places to frequent on Fourth?

It depends on what it is but off the top of my head I’d have to say Ermanos, because of proximity to my shop, and of course, their wine! Boca is a close second (my life revolves around food – ha!).

Tell us one of your most memorable experiences on the Avenue.

My face (photo) is under the bridge as part of the tile project!!!  My youngest daughter Alexandra is also on the wall. She is two years old in the photo and her photo is on the opposite wall. This was done a few years before we even started Isabella’s Ice Cream, and way before we moved onto Fourth. Total destiny!!! 

If you could time travel, what year would you like to visit Fourth Avenue?

Our shop is located in The Tophoy Building, which was originally built in 1926. I’d love to visit 4th Ave during the 1920’s. I’d love to see the architecture, vehicles, music, glamour, fashion, and fun of the Roaring Twenties. It seems like such an intriguing time in history. 

Isabella’s Ice Cream is founded on the principle of being socially and environmentally responsible. Isabella’s offers hand-crafted, 100% all natural ice creams and vegan sorbets. Our iconic trucks exhibit the beauty of the past while running on the technology of the future, delivering our artisan creations to Tucson and beyond.

Isabella's Ice Cream Truck. Photo courtesy of Isabella's Ice Cream.
Isabella’s Ice Cream Truck. Photo courtesy of Isabella’s Ice Cream.

Visit Isabella’s Ice Cream at 210 North 4th Avenue Tucson, Arizona and find more info on the store at: www.isabellasicecream.com.

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