Right in the heart of Chicago’s hip West Loop neighborhood, located at 1047 W. Madison Street, sits one of the city’s most popular ice cream shops. As soon as you walk into CONE, you’re welcomed by rows and rows of homemade, handmade ice cream. Flavors such as Irish mint chip, fudgy banana, blueberry cheesecake and pumpkin pie sit near the front counter in a see-through freezer for customers to choose a flavor to indulge in.
The shop is decked out with lime green walls and to the left of the entrance sits a white, custom-made wooden bench. Behind the counter, a black chalkboard hangs plastered with each ice cream and shake flavor the shop has to offer. West Loop residents and Chicago tourists can’t help but travel from near and far to see what CONE is all about.
Originally from Belmullet County Mayo, Ireland — born and raised — Sean McGuire decided to open CONE in July of 2013 in hopes of bringing a little “taste” of Ireland right to the United States. McGuire resides in the West Loop neighborhood with his wife and three kids.
One of the main reasons behind the creation and inspiration of CONE came when McGuire and his wife realized that there was nothing like what CONE had to offer in the West Loop — a neighborhood, family-oriented hangout ice cream shop. What makes CONE even more unique is the fact that they don’t only offer your usual ice cream flavors, but offer Ireland ice cream flavors as well, along with yummy treats such as fruit pops and lucky charm cereal toppings.
Josh Hayes, store manager for CONE gourmet ice cream explained that the owners vision was to open an ice cream, sweet shop catered around Ireland ice cream with a flair that stood out from other ice cream stores in the city. When asked which ice cream flavor sells the most between children and adults, the answer was clear that it is cookie monster.
“What’s really cool too is to see adults get excited,” he said.
Brian Ferber, a founding chair for the Neighbors of the West Loop organization, an all residents volunteer community group, has lived in the West Loop neighborhood for the past nine years. He explained that since CONE has opened their doors, they have done a great job bringing people from all over to the neighborhood by adding a unique, small business to the area. Ferber added that with how the West Loop has changed in the past 20 years, there’s always a threat of small businesses being pushed out.
“The biggest benefit is simply CONE is owned by someone who lives in the West Loop neighborhood,” Ferber said. Small, independently owned businesses that are family friendly are important to Madison Ave., which is developing as the main street in the West Loop.
Paige Carlson, an avid CONE customer, said it’s her favorite ice cream shop in the city, and that she comes often since it’s located right in her neighborhood. Carlson explained how CONE is a great family-friendly shop and brings in a lot of residents from the area.
“I didn’t first come here until last spring actually,” she said. “I love hanging out on the patio during the summer, it’s definitely a cool spot to bring friends.”
Hayes said that since working at CONE, the thing he loves most about working at the shop are the customer interactions and being able to take part and experience the atmosphere of seeing the neighborhood come together.
“Seeing the neighborhood hang out together and people come in huge groups,” Hayes explained. “We are very fortunate that we are centrally located where all the other restaurants are. Just being an active part in the community has been really fun.”