Ice Cream Queen: Meet Andia Xouris

The owner of Andia’s Ice Cream, which now has a location in Raleigh Iron Works, talks about building her business.
by Rachel Simon | photography by Forrest Mason

Andia Xouris remembers the exact moment when she knew that her eponymous ice cream shop was going to be a success. It was one week after the grand opening of the Andia’s Ice Cream on Green Level Church Road in Cary, a broiling-hot day in July 2017. When Xouris went outside to thank customers for coming, she saw that, despite the 90-degree temperature, the line was so long it went all the way into the parking lot. “That’s when I realized we had something special,” she says.

In the seven years since, those lines have only gotten longer — for good reason. Andia’s offers award-winning, premium ice cream and shakes in an ever-changing range of flavors. The brand has become so popular with Triangle residents that Xouris and her husband/cofounder George have opened two more storefronts, including, as of last August, a location at Raleigh’s Iron Works. They’ve also started shipping pints nationally via Goldbelly and hired dozens of employees to keep up demand. 

Andia’s — voted one of the top four ice cream shops in the country by USA Today in 2023 — offers unique flavors like Butter Toffee Popcorn and Malted Twix, plus Instagram-viral “Monster Shakes,” so over-the-top they made it onto an episode of Good Morning America. One mouth-watering example: the “Torched S’More” shake, featuring Double Dark Chocolate ice cream, a graham crumb rim, Hershey’s syrup drizzle, whipped cream and no less than three toasted marshmallows. But getting to the brand’s current level of success wasn’t an easy journey. 

The Xourises, who’ve been together 32 years and have two adult children (both of whom are now part of the Andia’s team), first got the idea to open an ice cream shop in the early 2000s, when their family was living in New Jersey. Andia, a stay-at-home mother, and George, who sold financial software, had bonded early in their relationship over their shared love of dessert and entrepreneurship. They even floated the idea of buying a local ice cream shop, but the place they had in mind never went up for sale.

Fast forward to 2009, after the Xourises had moved to Cary, and George brought up the idea once more. Andia was hesitant — “I honestly thought he was crazy, because we knew nothing,” she laughs — but with their kids getting older and George in-between jobs, she knew they’d have the time and ability to give the project the focus it deserved. It wasn’t long before she got on board.

Over the next several years, the couple traveled across the country to attend ice cream conventions and visit popular shops, eager to learn all they could about the dessert-making world. George, the more analytical-minded of the two, focused on mastering the business side of things, while the highly creative Andia put her efforts into their future shop’s marketing — and making the ice cream itself, taking courses for professionals to learn to craft the frozen treat.

A talented home cook, Andia was shocked to discover how difficult it could be to make high-quality ice cream at a large scale, whether it was the need to memorize specific ratios of sugars and fats, learning various freezing points for different flavors or mastering a just-right texture. “I did not take to it easily,” she admits, adding that she “hated” chemistry in school. 

But with time, her skills grew, until her homemade ice cream — in flavors inspired by childhood visits to her grandparents’ home in Cyprus, such as Rose Pistachio and Baklava — was strong enough to test out on friends and family. They loved it, but she wasn’t convinced. “I thought they were just nice to me because they were my friends,” she says. 

The couple started selling their ice cream, under the name The Freezing Pointe, to wholesalers and at Triangle farmers’ markets. “People would come up and ask, where can I buy your ice cream?” she says. “I couldn’t believe that strangers liked my product enough to buy it.”

In 2017, the Xourises decided to open a retail location. But first they decided to change up their branding, after hearing from customers that The Freezing Pointe didn’t really communicate the family-
owned aspect of the business or the quality of the ice cream. The couple launched Andia’s Ice Cream in 2017 in Cary Town Park Center, decorating the cozy space with a giant blackboard listing their flavors and a large neon sign reading “Scooped With Love” above the cases. 

To help attract attention, the Xouris children began advertising the shop’s flavors on TikTok and Instagram, with multiple videos — including behind-the-scenes looks at the process and an amusing monthly series rating the “scoopability” of each new flavor — going viral.

It wasn’t long before Andia’s began garnering praise in the form of both customers (some of whom, spurred by the social media hype, admitted they’d driven hours to try it out) and awards. In addition to honors like the USA Today list, Andia herself is also the recipient of the prestigious Grand Master award from the North American Ice Cream Association, one of only 15 people in the country and the only woman in the South and Southeast. 

With so much early success, it was a no-brainer for the Xourises to open a second location. The Andia’s in the Cary Village Square Shopping Center launched in summer 2020, and although business was initially slow due to the pandemic, it soon picked up. Eager to also expand into Raleigh, the couple then focused their sights on Raleigh Iron Works, drawn to the Midtown development’s potential for foot traffic and focus on local businesses.

Like all small businesses, Andia’s has had its share of failures: buying the wrong equipment, accepting ill-advised deals, hiring employees who ended up not being a fit. Not every ice cream flavor has worked: Andia wistfully recounts a Hot Cheeto-cream cheese combo that bombed with customers. (It came out during the pandemic, so she blames that at least in part to the inability to offer samples.) But as “painful” as these mistakes have been, she says, they ultimately helped her and George learn what worked for their business to grow at the proper pace.

Now, the couple are focused on expanding strategically, with collaborations with eateries like Jubala Coffee and Madre and a Durham location opening at the Can Opener Food Truck Park this month. The shop has also partnered with multiple charities, donating profits to the Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center and the Frankie Lemmon School, among others.

With so much constantly going on with the brand, Andia herself says she’s rarely taken time to soak in the shop’s success. “I don’t stop and think about it enough,” she admits. But during our talk, she teared up multiple times when discussing her family’s business journey. “We have been through so much, especially going into an industry that we knew nothing about,” Andia says. “I am incredibly grateful for this rollercoaster ride, because I would not be where I am today without it.” 

This article originally appeared in the July 2024 issue of WALTER magazine.