An Artisan Twist on an American Favorite:
Mayday Ice Cream
By Jenna MacFarlane
Photography by Jordan Randall
When Stephen DiMare decided to open Mayday Ice Cream in St. Augustine, he wanted to deliver all the emotions ice cream inspires: delight, comfort, nostalgia and, of course, enjoyment. Today, its location at The Joinery in Lakeland does just that—serving up dozens of flavors tucked in warm waffle cones and topped with homemade sprinkles.
Stephen first forayed into frozen treats by opening Hyppo Pops in 2010: a popsicle shop with a few locations serving up all-natural, gourmet popsicles. You can spot Hyppo in walking districts like Hyde Park in Tampa and downtown St. Augustine.
With a few years of experience under his belt at Hyppo, he recognized a gap in the market for high quality ice cream. Small-batch ice cream shops were popping up all over the US — but St. Augustine was missing out. So he connected with a pastry chef, developed a few ice cream flavors, and Mayday was born.
Now spanning 14 locations, Mayday delights hundreds of customers every day across the Sunshine State and Mississippi.
“I tell my employees that your job isn’t to sell ice cream, it’s to serve people.”
– Mayday CEO Stephen Dimare
Mayday began with a very small team. They produced the ice cream themselves, in-house, testing flavors and trying new things to see what worked and what didn’t. When they began growing at a rapid pace, expanding to new locations throughout St. Augustine and Jacksonville, Stephen took it all in stride.
“We weren’t exactly planning for this level of growth,” he says, crediting his team and support system who helped him think quickly without compromising on quality or experience.
Over the past 10 years, the brand’s philosophy has never changed. “I tell my employees that your job isn’t to sell ice cream,” Stephen says. “It’s to serve people.”
Surprisingly to most average ice cream enjoyers, it’s actually quite a complex science to develop high quality recipes. The best ice creams are both rich and refreshing; they’re distinct and flavorful without being overwhelming. Ice cream is built around balance.
That’s why Mayday uses the highest quality ingredients they can get their hands on. For example, they make the bases for Mayday ice cream with 16% butter fat (which is pretty much the highest you can get before the ice cream just turns into butter).
“Every single ingredient is the best, and the highest quality,” Stephen says, emphasizing that the desired flavor profile comes first.
Stephen and the team work with two family-owned Florida manufacturers to build the best flavors, and they deliver to each location on a weekly basis for the freshest ice cream you can get.
“[Deciding on ice cream flavors] can be very polarizing and emotional. What one person love another might hate.”
– Stephen Dimare
The process of developing, testing and selecting final flavors is crucial to balancing the science and enjoyment of ice cream. First, the folks at Mayday propose flavor ideas, get samples made, and then the team decides whether or not the flavor will get sold.
“It can be very polarizing and emotional,” Stephen said, laughing, “What one person loves another might hate.”
So they try to keep the most fulfilling flavors, and save the rejections for potential future seasonal flavors. (For example, a tested-but-ultimately-nixed flavor was the Grapefruit Negroni ice cream with straight vermouth—satisfying to some, offensive to others. I’ll leave it to you to decide!)
Today, going out for ice cream is a lighthearted, childlike tradition — but ice cream has a rich history from which Mayday takes its name. “Mayday” was inspired by a period of time—World War II—that brought out some of humanity’s darkest days. With destruction all around, though, ice cream helped keep hope alive.
During the war, American pilots flying over Europe took advantage of the frigid altitudes. They strapped buckets full of cream and sugar on the back of their planes, and let the plane’s movements churn ice cream. Once they landed, their ice cream was ready to share, and it often reminded soldiers of home.
Stephen says the response and support for the Lakeland store since its opening in 2020 has blown him away. It’s Mayday’s only location in a food hall, and it’s the perfect spot for people looking for something sweet to end the evening. And as for Stephen, one of his favorite flavors is the Sunday Best Banana Pudding—a blend of fresh bananas with Nilla wafers and a hint of cinnamon. Mayday offers plenty of options for dairy free folks, too, and some boozy options for the 21+ crowd. Stephen described a seasonal ‘Cold Fashioned’ in which pureed cherry sorbet, bitters and orange create a liquored icy concoction.
As for the future, Mayday’s on an exciting trajectory. Though they’re slowing down on opening new locations, they’re working on becoming more getting rooted where they are.
“We want to make sure we’re able to be faithful to the communities we’re in,” Stephen says. “Growth is healthy, but so is sustainability. We’re thoughtful about all of it.”
In the future, you can expect to see special flavors at each location—and you might even be able to get a Mayday Passport to try each location’s flavor (Strawberry Matcha at St. John’s in Jax, anyone?)
Ice cream, in its simplicity, is made to be savored, and it’s clear the folks at Mayday create it with all the heart and care they can.