Downtown Miami

Popular Overtown ice cream company one of the community’s coolest businesses

Donaven Jackson, 30, showcases a Jackson Bros. ice cream truck in his Overtown neighborhood.
Donaven Jackson, 30, showcases a Jackson Bros. ice cream truck in his Overtown neighborhood. For the Miami Herald

Through the years, the Miami neighborhood of Overtown has changed and the people have changed with it. Donaven Jackson, owner of Jackson Bros. ice cream, aims to keep his business thriving and a staple within the community.

“As a businessman, a lot of the kids look up to me,” said Jackson, 30, of his impact in the community. “One of the guys, the other day, said, ‘Man, you have been doing this a long time. We look up to you and we respect you.’

“As a resident, it’s [Overtown] really changing, things are really changing. Like in a blink of an eye, I was just in high school when they were talking about how they were going to start building high rises. And here it is, it is changing.”

Jackson, whose brother Amo, 33, also works in the company, has been in business for himself since his early 20s. He said that experience has been one his greatest teachers along his journey.

“Creating a brand,” he said. “Things that I know now, if I would have known that when I first started, then I would have been in a better position. I was young and making a lot of money.”

With all of his success, Jackson has his eyes on something more permanent that would keep him even more connected to Overtown.

“I’m looking forward to actually having a restaurant,” said the Overtown entrepreneur. “The biggest thing is trying to get a storefront. A door just opened up and then it closed. That’s one of the biggest things I’ve been working on. I’ve been praying. My girl and I, we pray a lot, about my business and how we want to do things differently. You know? I want to remain an Overtown resident.”

The company currently has multiple ways of getting food to the people: ice cream truck, food trailer, and three slushy and ice cream carts. Jackson Bros. has catered events for the city of Miami Gardens, local schools and, of course, Jackson’s alma mater, Booker T. Washington Senior High.

“My son and his friends were the ones that got me hooked,” said Liberty City native Sandy Cook-Cole, 44, of his love for Jackson Bros. food. “I think they are doing a great job and I will always support them.”

Jackson said there is one main key to keeping his business so popular.

“Quality, that’s one of the biggest things that I pride myself on. I don’t cut corners,” he said. “I figured that if I use all of the best products, all of the best ingredients, I can have the best product. And that’s the secret. Everybody is always like, ‘What do you do? What do you do?’ That’s the secret, use quality products.”

Even with the evolution of the neighborhood, Jackson — who almost lost his business in 2014 when his first work van was totaled in a fire — remains confident that he can be successful in any climate.

“My business is changing because of the people that are coming to Overtown,” Jackson said. “I’m going to keep what I do that same, but I am going to try to reach other people because I’m not just serving one type of person, I want to serve different types of people.”