Story and photo by Vivienne Pearson
Belgium chocolate is his favourite today; last month it was Watermelon and Mint Sorbet. Despite being the ice-cream man of Brunswick Heads, Johnny Strange doesn’t indulge often, only letting ice-cream pass his lips once a week or so.
What does pass Johnny’s lips with every word is a trace of his New Zealand upbringing. He ‘fell into’ hospitality after realising that his anthropology studies would not, as hoped, turn him into Indiana Jones. Starting in dishwashing, he moved through pizza making to pastry cheffing.
He took his skills to London. ‘It was fun for a while, but I missed surfing,’ he recollects. ‘I’d work till 11pm then get on the last tube home.’ He swapped the tube for a plane and headed home to Auckland.
Little did he know that a two-week holiday would find him a new home. The holiday was to Mullumbimby – he’d heard the nearby surfing was good. ‘I ended up, one week in, calling my head chef and going: “Man, do you mind if I don’t come back?”’ Johnny settled in Byron Bay and met his partner, Bindia, with whom he has two children. Speaking of how having kids changed him, he laughs: ‘I was a big kid up until then’.
Johnny grew up even more last year when an opportunity to go into business arose. The location was Brunswick Heads, in the shop, now named The Milk Bar, that had been Green Monkey, and Splashes before that. ‘It’s has been the ice-cream shop in Brunny basically from day dot,’ notes Johnny.
Six months in, and Johnny is smiling. But does he still surf? ‘Yes, I do – we don’t open until 10 o’clock,’ he laughs. In a family with two kids where both parents work hard (Bindia is a nurse), surfing is not a daily ritual but happens often enough to keep Johnny loving the Byron Shire life.
‘Bruns has got a magic about it,’ he notes, looking over to the footbridge that is a stone’s throw from his ice-cream counter, full of delicious flavours. Which will be his favourite next month?