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Business partners Brian Lowit and Melissa Quinley met working at Dischord Records—D.C.’s legendary punk label that launched in 1980 and grew into one of the most respected and enduring independent labels in the country.
“For me and for Brian, it shaped us growing up,” Quinley says. “The way Dischord is run has had a profound impact on me on being up front, honest, no bullshit.” Lowit, who also has his own record label, echoes Quinley, describing Dischord as simple, utilitarian, and honest. That’s how the pair plans to run their ice cream shop, which opened in Mount Pleasant on July 1.
Lowit and Quinley are both still employed at Dischord Records and enjoy working together. “The last several years, I have said to Brian, ‘Let’s open a business together,’” Quinley says. “It was a dream of mine to have something that was ours.”
They settled on opening the first Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream shop outside of Maine, where there are three locations headed by founder Linda Parker. They trained with her and are using her recipes, but the ice cream is made in house in D.C. using as many local ingredients as possible.
Options run the gamut of expected flavors like strawberry and cookies & cream to experimental ones like Thai chili coconut and chocolate wasabi. Quinley says the “Girl Scout’s Gone Wild” flavor—which should remind cone lickers of Thin Mint cookies—is one of the most popular flavors, as is the coriander berry streusel (pictured).
“The idea of ice cream is super appealing to me,” Quinley says. District punk fans may know her from her band, Soccer Team. “It felt like a challenge without being too over our heads. I like how there’s not a lot of food waste; it’s accessible to everyone; and when times are tough, it’s a treat.”
Lowit’s goal is to bring people together from all different backgrounds to savor something affordable. “We wanted to have a spot that the neighborhood could come and hang out and get to know their neighbors,” he says. “People sit outside on the patio and talk to each other. It’s what we envisioned. It’s not a bar, it isn’t centered around alcohol.”
The pair say they received a lot of help from their friends in the industry and so far the business is being embraced by the community. Another group excited to have a Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream in D.C.? Maine vacationers. “People from Philly came down because they said it was faster than driving to Maine,” Lowit says. “It definitely has a cult following there … It’s a piece of summer vacation in D.C.”
In an ironic twist, Dischord Records co-founder and Fugazi band member Ian MacKaye lives in Mount Pleasant and knows a thing or two about ice cream.
“Ian’s been very supportive,” Lowit says. “One of his first jobs was at the Häagen-Dazs in Georgetown, so he finds this very amusing. Ian has these fond memories of working at an ice cream place and now we have a place nearby.”
Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream’s summer hours are Sundays through Thursdays from noon to 9 p.m.; Fridays from noon to 10 p.m.; and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Mt. Desert Island Ice Cream, 3110 Mt Pleasant St. NW; mdiic.com/washington-dc