After's Ice Cream founders go after a new doughnuts-and-drinks dessert shop

The guys behind After's Ice Cream are again depending on Orange County's sweet tooth as they prepare to launch another dessert shop.

Ujelly, which will feature unique flavors of doughnuts, Asian drinks and stuffed croissants, will open Jan. 9 in Fountain Valley.

Founders Andy Nguyen and Scott Nghiem, of After's fame, as well as Lysathuy Pham, former owner of the now-closed Fusion Tea Bar, teamed up to "modernize the doughnut industry," according to Nghiem.

"We're just trying to revolutionize what was old and tired in the past," said Nghiem, 31, of Huntington Beach. "You can tell by our design, aesthetics and products that we're just trying to go for the gold here with a premium product, environment and a lifestyle that coincides with it."

As guests walked into Ujelly during its soft opening, they were greeted by a young staff, Top 40 music and brightly colored signs with humorous sayings such as "Donut worry. Be happy."

But eyes can quickly become fixated on the center counter, where various fresh, colorful doughnuts are displayed.

Selections, which go for $1.50 to $3 each, depending on the flavor, include caramel flan, Vietnamese coffee, taro, young coconut, pistachio, red velvet, and cookies and cream with freshly baked Tollhouse cookies.

While some might believe Ujelly is a direct spin-off of After's, which is known for its Milky Bun, a doughnut-like pastry stuffed with ice cream, Nguyen argues that Ujelly is a unique concept. (After's now has five Southern California locations and will add a sixth in Irvine early next year.)

"The Milky Bun is literally made to hold ice cream," said Nguyen, who is also 31 and from Huntington Beach. "The density of a Milky Bun is different than a regular doughnut. If you try to put ice cream in these [Ujelly] doughnuts, the ice cream would fall through."

Ujelly also focuses on other creations, like Asian drinks and stuffed croissants.

Nghiem said the business partners wanted to bring their drinks "back to the basics" by offering only about a dozen selections. Many similar drink shops have dozens of different types.

"We're not trying to overcrowd the market and overwhelm our customers with 50 drinks," he said. "We're zoned into 12 solid drinks that are what we think will be the most popular."

Flavors include milk teas, cream teas, sea salt teas, coffees and fresh fruit teas. Boba and sweet jelly can be added. Drinks are $2.95 to $3.50, and add-ons cost an extra 50 cents.

Pham said the stuffed croissants are where they're trying to "take the baking to another level."

Ujelly's stuffed croissant selections include nacho cheese with ground beef, pizza, spicy hot Flaming Cheetos and Nutella with strawberries, almonds and fresh cream. These cost $3.50; the plain croissants are $2.

All baking is done on-site, Pham said, adding that the owners plan to bake every hour or two so that fresh products are always available.

"Everything should be done fresh," she said. "It tastes better that way."

Nghiem said the three are trying to bring more nightlife and culture to Fountain Valley with their businesses. They see the dessert shop as a late-night spot, open from 10 a.m. to midnight daily.

"Before, Orange County was the last to get anything or do anything compared to places like Los Angeles," he said. "Now, we're trying to be the pioneers for all these new businesses. A lot of people are actually traveling from L.A. to try our products down here."

Nguyen and Nghiem said they are excited to open another business in the city where they grew up.

"This is our hood," said Nguyen, who also recently opened the pho restaurant Nudo Nudo in Westminster. "If we do well in Fountain Valley, we can take it anywhere. We have to make sure our hometown appreciates it before we move on. This is our true support system here. If we can't make it here, the chances are lower everywhere else."

Ujelly is located at 16051 Brookhurst St., next to Starbucks in the Albertson's complex.

Copyright © 2017, Huntington Beach Independent
A version of this article appeared in print on December 31, 2015, in the Local section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "What comes after After's? Ujelly - The new dessert shop, featuring doughnuts, croissants and drinks, will officially open on Jan. 9 in Fountain Valley." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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