by Sandra Schulman for FL Daily Post
Who doesn’t love ice cream, art, and good music?
The three have come together with a mural of Celia Cruz at the new location of Azucar at the Suniland Shopping Center in Pinecrest. This mural features wild Cuban-inspired flavors like Burn in Hell Fidel – chocolate ice cream with cayenne pepper.
Artist Diana “Didi Rok” Contreras was hired by the owner and founder of Azucar Ice Cream, Suzy Batlle, who opened the original store in Little Havana near Domino Park, where Didi has her studio and murals on the famous 8th Street.
For Didi, it was a sweet connection in several ways.
“I grew up to her music,” she says. “I still listen to her a lot in my studio. Celia Cruz used to go to a place that’s right where my Little Havana studio is, an optic store to get her glasses fixed. Then, she would get a coffee and hang out.”
The newly opened Azucar is in the former space of the chain Tutti Frutti Pinecrest Frozen Yogurt & Ice Cream and neighboring Books & Books and Flanigan’s. The tile floors at the Pinecrest shop are very similar to the floors at the original Azucar in Little Havana, with brightly patterned tiles that recall old Havana.
“I’ve known Suzi the owner for a long time, maybe 10 years,” Didi says. “When I saw that her store was opening, I asked her if she needed any murals, and she said yes. I think all of her locations have a Celia Cruz mural. She has one in Little Havana, one inland, and one in Texas.”
“Even better, she said ‘do whatever you want!’ So I found a photo I liked of Celia open-mouthed and painted her ready to bite into a cone. She has a pink sparkly outfit and glasses adorned with rhinestones. It’s from a few photos put together.”
“She wanted it to be fun and she didn’t care if I got pink paint all over the walls, like on the ceiling and everything. I said perfect! I wanted her to be holding a microphone and an ice cream cone with sprinkles. You know, she was very vibrant, so I thought it was perfect for the ice cream.”
The fun, colorful mural took Didi two days.
“Yeah, people love it now. People say their favorite singer is Celia so they love the mural.
I’ve been in talks with people that like it and maybe want a painting or mural like it somewhere. I’ve done a lot of portraits of my made-up characters, but I can do anyone.”
“I love Celia. I listen to her music, she’s always on and yeah, I love her. I saw her documentary and loved her more. My favorite song is the one that’s about being happy, laughing, not being sad.”
Suzy Batlle has used the work of local artists for a long time in the mobile carts she uses for catering. In the Azucar store, the most popular flavor is Abuela Maria, with guava, cream cheese, and Maria cookies. Other Azucar flavors are Domino—Oreo cookies and cream, for obvious reasons paying homage to Domino Park in Little Havana, and Willy Chirino, which has bourbon ice cream with dark cherries.
She says the shops are creating new flavors, too. Some are based on Girl Scout cookies favorites Thin Mints and Samoas. In addition, they’re making rose ice cream with real rose petals and rose water that will be a hit with flower lovers.
Azucar, 11429 Dixie Highway, Pinecrest. For more information, www.azucaricecream.com