Alexei and Layla, the twins have some ice cream together at “OddFellows Ice Cream Company” in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, owned by their parents.
Mohan Kumar stands inside the counter when his daughter Layla stays at the counter. Mohan handles the business end, his wife Holiday the public relations and promotion, and their partner and the chef Sam Mason makes all the ice cream at the shop. Opened for 4 years, they have produced over 300 flavors.
Alexei reads a book at the counter.
Alexei and Layla pose for a photo at their parents-owned ice cream shop.
Holiday gently looks at her daughter Layla. OddFellows Ice Cream Company is very popular, even it’s cold outside on one afternoon in March, customers keep coming and the shop is full the whole time.
The family: Mohan, Holiday and their children Layla and Alexei. The ice cream shop idea started when Holiday was pregnant with their twins, Mohan said.
Layla poses for a photo at the counter. The shop uses red color base and beautifully decorated.
The twins enjoy watching the videos by the windows. Bright sunlight comes into the shop.
Mohan and his twin children at his ice cream shop “OddFellows Ice Cream Company.”
It isn’t easy to start a small business in New York City. It is even more challenging when you also have a family to raise. Despite the obstacles, Mohan and Holiday Kumar have had success with their business and as parents.
Mohan and Holiday Kumar are a married couple that lives in the East Village of New York City. They partnered up with pastry chef Sam Mason to open up a successful ice cream shop in the hipster neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn called OddFellows Ice Cream Company.
The ice cream shop idea started when Holiday was pregnant with their twins explained Mohan. “She had some normal and abnormal pregnant lady cravings. The three things I very much remember were fried chicken, coconut water and savory ice cream (meaning something with salt in it). Sam, our partner, he’s a pastry chef for 20 years, and we have been friends for a long time. One night I was talking with him about her craving and what not. He heard the ice cream part, and a couple of weeks later he brought over a pint of pretzel ice cream, and she loved it.”
“At the time I was looking to get out of my job, I was in finance,” Mohan continued, “and Holiday said ‘why don’t you go open up an ice cream shop and ask Sam?’ I approached Sam about it, and he said ‘Yeah I’ve wanted to open up an ice cream shop my whole life. Let’s do this.’”
OddFellows is a family run business with Mohan handling the business end, Holiday the public relations and promotion, and Sam Mason as the chef making all of the delicious, ever-changing savory flavors of ice cream featured at the shop. The shop has an old time soda fountain – ice cream shop décor.
“We’ve been opened for almost four years,” said Mohan. “We call it an inventive ice-cream shop.” Since it opened the store has had over 300 different flavors available for customers, and they regularly change. “We were kind of forced to do it because Sam, our partner in the business, doesn’t want to do the same thing over and over again.”
When Holiday and Mohan’s fraternal twins were born, they named them after some of Holiday’s favorite literary characters. Layla was named from a favorite Middle-eastern book, and Alexei was named after a famous character from the Dostoyevsky’s ‘The Brothers Karamazov.’
When I asked them how it is raising a family in New York, Mohan replied: “Nothing is easy, especially in New York City. What makes it more difficult is running your own small business.”
He said it was easier when he had a traditional 9 to 5 job at a large company with health insurance as one of the benefits. But now health care is just one of the many things he has to worry about as a small businessman and a parent.
“We find a way to make it work,” said Mohan even though they all live together in a 700-foot apartment in the East Village with a dog.
The first few years the couple had the kids, they had a nanny that helped to watch them. However, when they got older, they were able to find a great private daycare and pre-school in New York’s Chinatown called ‘Pre-school of America’ ( http://www.preschoolofamerica.us/ ). According to their website, the preschool is focused on a “play-based curriculum focuses on literacy, math, science, social and emotional skills, and physical development.” They liked that the classes were duo-language (Mandarin and English) and had an incredibly diverse student body.
Mohan and Holiday shared that they don’t have any particular philosophy about how they want to raise their kids and just “go with the flow.” Holiday noted that many New York City parents are very strategic, including moving to certain neighborhoods because of the school district, but they have no plans to do so.
Their children Layla and Alexei are currently in a public Pre-K school this year.
In New York City and Manhattan, the schools are broken down into districts. In some districts the students go to an assigned school. In other ones, they have a choice.
The district Mohan and Holiday live in, known as District 1 in Manhattan, is a choice district. They were able to choose the school their children went to.
They looked at the progressive schools and traditional schools in the district. They even considered parochial schools (A parochial school is a private primary or secondary school affiliated with a religious organization) as well because they are more affordable than private schools, but found them to not be the right choice for their family. They wanted to do private schools but could not afford the tuition that it would cost for both children.
The public school they chose close to their house is called PS110, the Florence Nightingale School ( http://www.ps110pta.org/ )
It has a traditional based public school curriculum, but they found it slightly on the progressive side of education theory. They really want their children to get into the “Gifted and Talented program” at the school ( http://www.ps110pta.org/academics-and-programs/gifted-and-talented ), and if they don’t, they will probably transfer them out to a traditional duo-language public school for kindergarten.
“It’s more traditional, it is very ‘Asian’ if you know what I mean,” said Holiday. “There is a lot of homework. It’s the way my parents would have raised me. I wanted something a little more flexible than that,” for her children.
They looked at public charter schools as well, but they were rejected because they were not located in the district they live in.
The twins are both doing private Chinese school on Sunday as well (it’s a full regular school taught all in Chinese).
Mohan is of Indian decent and Holiday is of Chinese decent. I asked them if they teach their children about diversity but they don’t because they live in New York City.
When asked if the city has offered anything that has helped them raise children they said that universal Pre-Kindergarten has been a big help. They also mention the plethora of cultural institutions, museums and taking day trips outside of the city to experience nature and go on hikes.
“There is a lot to do here,” said Holiday. “It is almost like they are spoiled by all the activities the city offers. If we don’t do anything on a Saturday or Sunday they are like ‘its so boring’ because they are spoiled by all there is to do here.”
“I can’t imagine living in the suburbs,” she added.
When asked about some of the difficulties of life in the city with a family they mentioned transportation and parking. In particular, it is hard to get around with the children, especially when they were younger and they had a double stroller to lug the kids around in. Holiday was often stuck in the house while Mohan was working all the time to get the business started. It was very tough time mentally on her.
When asked what she hopes for their children, Holiday wants them to be interested and curious about the world. Every year they make a trip somewhere in the world, but it has to be child-friendly. They have been to Montreal, Berlin, Dublin and Mexico City. “We want to expose them to different cultures and make them students of the world,” she said.
As for their thoughts about the current political climate in the country with Donald Trump as President, Mohan said: “They are at a great age to start to teach them about social awareness. We took them to the women’s march and the immigration march. They understand at this age the reasons why people can be frustrated with Donald Trump and his policies. We try and team them and help them understand why people are so angry, and why we are so angry, and how it makes us feel that he is the leader of our country.”
“We want them to learn that the world can be a better place than what it is now,” Mohan continued. “You don’t have to do with hatred and the ways Donald Trump is trying to the country go towards.”
They also teach them about the importance of the environment and clean energy. Mohan and Holiday also want to teach tolerance because there are people who are Trump supporters and they want their kids to know it is not wrong if people do like him.
When asked what their hope is for their children, they both said they want their children to be happy and satisfied with their lives. But we want them to do things that make the world a better place. “As long as they know they can make a change that’s good,” added Mohan.