On July 22, Kayla Arsenie Fitzgerald '08 officially opened Whirlybird Ice Cream & Waffles in Denver, Colorado. Created with the comforts of New England in mind, patrons can warm their souls with an ultra-sweet Liege waffle or happily indulge in a heaping scoop of Salted Golden Oreo ice cream.
The idea of owning and operating her first business had been churning in Kayla’s mind ever since she attended a Guster concert in Newport, Rhode Island. In middle school at the time, Kayla recalls feeling overwhelmed with all things Ben and Jerry’s at the concert venue. A lover of ice cream and a product of a small Connecticut town, Kayla was conflicted. In her mind, ice cream was meant to be crafted and enjoyed in a “little mom-and-pop shop” with a warm community vibe.
After Berkshire, Kayla earned a dual degree from Cornell University, pursuing studies in both the School of Hotel Management and the Culinary Institute of America. She then moved west to Denver. One night, while out to dinner with her then-fiance, Kayla looked across the street and noticed a line of 32 people waiting for ice cream. Her mind was churning once again. Working on the “numbers side” of the food industry for the companies Aramark and, more recently, Inspirato, Kayla learned an important lesson: she was happiest when she was being creative. She decided to take a second job working in an ice cream shop in the evenings. Now she would really know if this was the path she wanted to pursue.
Although there have been some understandable challenges running an ice cream shop amidst the pandemic, Kayla is optimistic about the future. Located in an up-and-coming and densely populated residential neighborhood near Mile High Stadium, Whirlybird Ice Cream & Waffles stands to be the kind of neighborhood destination that Kayla has always associated with ice cream. For now, she is hard at work looking for local wholesale customers so that many others in the community can enjoy her carefully crafted desserts.
If you’re out in Denver, be sure to stop by the shop for a scoop of hometown favorite Black Pepper Cookies and Cream! In the meantime, read the Q&A below to learn more about Kayla’s journey:
What has it been like to open and operate your first business?
Opening my business has been a dream come true. It has also been a constant test of passion and patience. I started my business plan in 2016 and spent years searching for the right location and proper funding. Then of course we opened our doors on July 22 of this year—in the height of the pandemic. Without passion and patience, we would not be here.
What inspired you to create and build Whirlybird Ice Cream & Waffles?
I am from Roxbury, Connecticut, a tiny town much like Sheffield. As a child, going to get ice cream was a way for our entire community to gather and a way for us to see our neighbors. I have similar fond memories of when I would leave campus and get a scoop at SoCo Creamery in Great Barrington. I wanted to bring that experience to Denver. Additionally, ice cream allows me to be creative every single day which is something I am very grateful for.
In what ways is your Berkshire experience present in your life today?
I believe that my experience under the Mountain is what instilled an unshakeable level of self-belief. Whether it was a dorm parent, coach, or member of the faculty, I had limitless support at Berkshire. If I doubted myself, they were the ones who helped me believe. I took this with me and am forever grateful for that.
What are your fondest memories of your time under the Mountain?
I have so many amazing memories! Rowing with Mr. MacKenzie was an integral part of my Berkshire experience, and I miss that bus ride to Lakeville every day. I think back fondly of when Rovensky rink was attached to Benson, and you could walk 50 feet from dinner to go to a hockey game which was SO loud because it was a field house. Additionally, senior year was unique because Berkshire Hall was going through renovations, so we were in modular classrooms. I remember the morning after we pulled off our senior prank—we took all of the classroom furniture from inside the modular classrooms and recreated the set-up on the roof of the modular classroom trailers.
If you could offer any piece of advice to today’s students, what would it be?
I would tell today’s Berkshire students to not be shy about venturing outside of their comfort zone. Take Mandarin. Join the crew team. Enroll in ceramics. The level of support amongst the faculty and staff is something that you will be hard-pressed to find outside of Berkshire. They will go above and beyond to support you and to see you shine.