Newmarket’s dessert shop sells traditional ice creams with a twist

Newmarket residents flock to By Jacob, which specializes in Italian treats with an Asian influence, as well as cheesecakes, macaroons and other sweets

Thai milk tea, pandan and durain are just a few of the unique flavors of gelato offered by By Jacob in Newmarket.

The dessert shop opened at 120 Mulock Dr., Sandford Street east of Yonge Street, in December 2021. Owner Peter Duong said he had hoped to open last summer, but the pandemic has roll things back.

However, the By Jacob case goes back further than that. Duong made macaroons and did catering, but kept a low profile by selling only through social media.

Duong has no formal training as a pastry chef but has worked in kitchens for nearly 20 years, since she was 19. He had mostly been on the savory side, but in a kitchen working with an Italian chef, he learned a lot of baking skills and his love for it grew from there.

He said that during the pandemic his business had exploded. It was while he was working on the expansion that ice came into the picture.

“I was looking for used equipment and came across an ice cream maker, an ice cream maker,” he said. “I thought why not, let’s just play a little.”

Gelato is an Italian dessert similar to ice cream, but the milk fat content is different and the whipping method is different. The ice cream is more whipped so that there is more air in it, while the gelato is less airy and denser.

“Because it’s denser, it’s tastier,” Duong said.

The flavors he crafts at By Jacob, however, break with tradition and bring in plenty of Asian influences. This has included Thai milk tea, taro, durian, and pandan, which is an Asian herb that Duong likens to vanilla flavor.

“I really want to stand out because I have to. There are so many other big companies around, if I don’t stand out, I’m just going to blend in and be more or less the same,” he said.

The Asian influence is what Duong says brings to the area to make her shop stand out. However, he said there was also a big market for it.

“There’s been a huge growth in Asian culture here,” he said, adding that the number of Asian grocery stores and bubble tea shops in Newmarket and Aurora has increased over the past two years.

However, for people looking for a more typical treat, you can also find it at By Jacob, with flavors like chocolate, raspberry and pistachio.

“I save something for everyone. I think it’s very important not to limit your demographics,” he said.

So far, he said, this approach has paid off, as the response to Newmarket with the arrival of customers has been “overwhelming”.

One flavor that has been a fan favorite is Lotus Biscoff, which is inspired by a Dutch cookie.

“Lotus Biscoff is a crowd pleaser, it’s our biggest seller and I feel like it’s one of the safest bets anyone can take. one who said I didn’t like Lotus Biscoff,” Duong said.

In addition to ice cream, By Jacob also sells a variety of macaroons, cheesecakes, other pastries, soft doughs and funnel cakes. Everything is homemade in the large kitchen at the back of the shop. From there, Duong also runs his meal prep and catering business, which he says allows him to reach both ends of the culinary spectrum.

“I can do my tasty cooking whenever I feel like it and obviously I can do my desserts which I’m enjoying a lot right now,” he said.

By Jacob is a family affair for Duong as his wife, Monica, helped out and worked in the store. He said she is now vital to the operation and it couldn’t work without her. Besides that, the name is inspired by the couple’s eldest son, Jacob.

“He goes to school nearby, so he tells all the kids at school, ‘I have an ice cream shop. It’s named after me,'” he said.

Since starting the business years ago, the couple have had another child, named Jordan, and Duong said he already asks where his store is. While he said there are no current plans for expansion. he wouldn’t take anything off the table.

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