An hour before closing and the barely six-month-old South Osborne eatery has a queue winding out the door.
Dozens of customers are parked inside and on the patio, cooling off with homemade flavours named Glen Coconut, Prairie Barry and Donnie Darcocoa, to name but three.
"It’s not about the flavour. It’s about the culture." –Tarek Turjman
Chaeban's ice cream is frequently served in shareable (and oft-Instagrammed) flights, not unlike flights of beer or wine you would see at a bar.
So when a reporter compares the ice cream parlour's bustle to that of a nightclub, owner Joseph Chaeban concurs, joking, "maybe we’re fooling them by saying we have flights?"
He says the commotion is a "dream come true," for a Syrian family that wasn’t sure it would stay in Winnipeg. Chaeban was offered jobs running dairy plants in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, but says he wanted to stay put with his wife Zainab Ali, surrounded by hundreds of friends they'd made on the Prairies.
Generous neighbours formed the South Osborne Syrian Refugee Initiative in 2015, which furiously raised funds to sponsor 13 members of Ali's family to come to Canada.
"It’s amazing what this community is like. They’re honestly angels, because without their support and then word of mouth, I don’t think this would have happened," Chaeban says, surveying the room during one of his shop's busiest hours.
Meantime, 14 boisterous friends, most of them from Zimbabwe, stake out the centre table to celebrate Chiedza Chando's 27th birthday.
It's their second-straight weekend at Chaeban — "We go out for dinner and then we come and have dessert here," Chando explains — and they love the ambience and vegan-friendly options. Most of them are also immigrants and appreciate the Chaeban family's backstory.
Plus "the lighting is very good for photos, that’s important," Stephanie Salifu chimes in, sending the group into a fit of laughter.
A couple more customers, Tarek Turjman and his three-year-old son Mohamad, came to Chaeban for a taste of home. Their family is also from Syria.
"We miss our country and they are making nice ice cream. It’s tasty," Turjman says, adding a caveat.
"It’s not about the flavour. It’s about the culture."
— Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Photography by Andrew Ryan