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Ali Perez has overcome obstacles. As of late, she has experienced good fortune, too.  

In 1963 at the age of six months old, she was on a boat that helped her family flee from communist-overrun Cuba to Florida. Almost 60 years later, she is opening her latest business.  

Best Ice Cream opened at 1401 Lee St. in downtown Fort Myers. Coming later in September and right next door will be The Mermaid Room, which will be for adults 21-and-over. That space will have liqueur-, CBD- and Delta 8-infused ice cream, which is a close but legal relative of marijuana. The Mermaid Room will have a $10 cover charge.  

For now, Best Ice Cream has been serving its unique brand of nitrogen-infused, made-to-order ice cream at its newest location.   

“What makes it the best ice cream is we make everything from scratch here,” Perez said. “We make the base. It’s made here every single day, several times a day.” 

“We freeze it with liquid nitrogen. What that does, is it prevents having ice crystals. So, it’s pure, delicious and creamy. Nitrogen is minus 321 degrees. It freezes almost instantly.”

  

Best Ice Cream’s first location will continue to stay open at 2215 Winkler Ave., Ste. K, in Fort Myers. Its former location at Dani Drive near Six Mile Cypress Parkway, closed in 2020. But before it closed, Perez had a chance meeting with Herb and Mitzi Katz. They were vacationing from Illinois, where Herb Katz has been a longtime shopping center developer. They were looking for fresh, vegan ice cream for their daughter, and Perez accommodated them.  

Herb Katz paid $725,000 for the building at the corner of Lee Street and Bay Street. It had a lawyer’s office inside, but Katz was looking to do something different. Decades prior, he had visited his grandfather in Fort Myers. He wanted to create something iconic.  

That’s when Katz and Perez began plotting her dream ice cream shop.  

“I love them,” Perez said of Herb and Mitzi Katz. “When I say I love them, I mean I love them like family. They’re like family to me.”  

More than a year ago, Perez painted the outside of the Lee Street building pink and blue with bubble clouds. Herb Katz also gave her plenty of time to paint the inside to her liking. She installed black lights and used fluorescent paints. Plastic bubbles hang from the ceiling, and original artwork adorns the walls. Especially at night, it creates the aura of being “under the sea.”  

Perez said she hopes her customers will enjoy the ambiance rather than just grab and go.  

“This is something that is really very spiritual,” she said. “When you get the chance to actually paint something from your heart, it becomes something very unique and different. That’s what I wanted. I didn’t want too just be ordinary.”

  

Perez is also partnering with three female business owners and selling their products from the ice cream store: candles, bracelets and a brand of party invitations.  

“I love to empower women as well,” Perez said. “There are three women that I empower here at the shop with different things, different products. I love that. It gives them the chance to show, market and sell their products.”  

Cups of ice cream start at $8 and $9. She also makes shareable “dream bowls” that start at $15. The ice cream menu is just a guide, Perez said, as the creators on hand can accommodate requests.  

Herb Katz said he and his wife were happy to help Perez reinvigorate her brand.  

“This is a monumental task,” Herb Katz said. “Ali’s artistry skills are at a very high level. We knew there was something special there. We wanted to take her time and without pressure. We wanted her to go crazy. We felt like there could be nothing like it for her and her business.”  

Herb Katz plans to visit the ice cream shop in October and expects it to be worth the wait.  

“You make investments,” he said. “Sometimes, the train doesn’t run on time. But when it gets there, it can be really special. We feel we’re benevolent and non-dictatorial. We wanted her to catch the free spirit. And this business would be so far above other businesses of like kind.” 

“We think it’s going to end up being iconic. Just because of the artistry and also because of the product.”

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