WTF Happened To Sweet Jesus Ice Cream's Big Expansion In The States?
It's been four years since Sweet Jesus took over the summer of 2015 with their outrageously fun and equally delicious ice cream treats. With a catchy name, delicious options and of course, practically being the prime example of "Instagrammable" food, it came as no surprise that the Toronto-based Sweet Jesus ice cream shop quickly took over the city. Since their initial takeover, Sweet Jesus has been rapidly expanding to respond to the continued craze over their soft serve concoctions.
This expansion includes 16 locations throughout Ontario, British Columbia, a spot in Dubai named "Sweet Salvation" and an American location in the Baltimore airport.
The Baltimore location isn't the sole attempt Sweet Jesus has made to take their brand across the border. In fact, Sweet Jesus' first entrance into the United States was supposed to be at the Mall of America (MOA) in Minnesota.
The news of the opening had initially been revealed back in November of 2017. The new shop was expected to be 790 feet large and would be located on the third level of the mall by the upcoming winter, the Star Tribune reported at the time.
As of today, the location still has yet to open and continues to boast a "coming soon" graphic on its reserved space in the mall.
Naturally, people have questions about the extreme delays, with some wondering if the shop will ever actually open:
The franchise encountered backlash when they first announced their MOA expansion regarding their brand name and logo. A petition was launched to kick Sweet Jesus out of the mall before they could even open, with some protestors going as far as to claim the franchise was promoting child cannibalism.
One of the boycotts was called by the U.S.-based Catholic League. Rick Hinshaw, the Director of Communications at the Catholic League, tells Narcity that their decision to call for a protest wasn't immediate. Initially, when a member of the league brought Sweet Jesus to their attention because of their disagreement with the use of "Jesus" in the name, the Catholic League felt it was "fairly innocuous", so they initially did not act against the brand.
Rick noted in an interview with Narcity that the Catholic League aims to "try to make sure that when (they) get involved in something that it's clearly egregious and offensive" and at the point in the case of Sweet Jesus, "there was no indication of any intent."
However, when a second person brought the issue back to the Catholic League's attention, they learned that Sweet Jesus had incorporated what they interpret as satanic symbols in their logo. The upside-down cross as a "T" in Sweet and the lightning bolt serving as an "S" in Jesus was ultimately what sparked the public call for a boycott at that point by the League's president, Bill Donohue.
Since the public call for a boycott, the Catholic League has yet to hear back from either the Mall of America or Sweet Jesus. For the League, their hope was "right at the beginning that Sweet Jesus would see the merit in (their) objections and would just do away with the symbols and continue to sell and market their ice cream and continue to use the name if they wanted, but get rid of the symbols."
While Sweet Jesus' initial response to the overall backlash, when reached by The New York Post, was that "they just don't understand the brand," a recent look at their website shows that there has been a slight change to their logo. While the lightning bolt "S" still remains, the upside-down cross that previously replaced the "T" in Sweet is now gone.
With regard to a possible connection between the location delay and the protests, the Catholic League claim they "have no idea" but "it would be nice to think (the MOA) are having second thoughts about it, but it seems like an awfully long delay. If that was the case, why not just pull back?"
Sweet Jesus also went through some changes in the past year after being bought out this past December by International Franchising Inc. This happened shortly after their expansion into several Canadian malls such as Sherway Gardens and Upper Canada Mall. The switch in ownership came with the expectation of major growth through a franchising model, considering International Franchising Inc. also owns brands such as Yogen Fruz and Pinkberry. Since being bought out though, not much has changed and the Mall of America location continues to be left as "coming soon."
After reaching out to Sweet Jesus for an update on the location, Narcity was told that details are still unavailable about the MOA location, but that plans are in the works. "We have some new developments happening at MOA," an International Franchising Inc. representative said in an email. "It would be better to contact me in a couple of weeks for an update."
There are likely multiple factors contributing to the ice cream chain's delayed opening, but none of those have been made public.
For now, it seems the only place Americans will be able to get Sweet Jesus without travelling across the border will be at the Baltimore Airport. To keep your eye on updates regarding the location, you can visit Sweet Jesus on both Instagram or through their website.