Construction Journal

Follow Our Construction Updates

May 12, 2019

It has been a busy week, well, I mean another busy week.

On Friday (the 10th) our (temorary) window went in and it looks beautiful! Following that was our successful health inspection which meant we could now start serving customers!

It has been a long journey and I’ll follow up more on this later, today I have a lot more icecream to make!


We had a successful day today with lots of folks trying out our flavours. Thanks to every one who dropped by. Please drop us a line and let us know your feelings about your experience with us today.

Other than that I’m going to close up the construction journal. It was a long journey and we’re all excited about the next phase.

May 6th, 2019

Did I say off by a week. I meant two. Drat! Fiddlesticks!

Our brand new window is not in yet but we’re told it will be going in on Friday.

The seats came in today, I’m really happy with them! Our store is ready!

May 2, 2019

We the Billingsley clan are so proud and quite frankly a little blown away ourselves how much we love our new shop.

There is a small bit of tile work left in the front by the new window and front window seats but it’s done!

We had a 4 month + construction project and being off by a week wasn’t too bad at all.

April 27th, 2019

We’ve had a great week! There are a lot of great updates:

  • All the flooring is in – both in the kitchen and front of house area.
  • The window opening is done – a big 9′ x 4′ opening now replaces the squiggly window that has been there for decades.
  • The front cabinets are all in with the exception of the millwork on the front. That’s being worked on now.
  • The benches for the seating is all in and the cushions and backing are being upholstered now.
  • The washrooms are all installed and painted and ready to go.
  • The process work for making our ice creams is wrapped up and you guys who have been our testers have been pretty enthusiastic with the results! (although I can’t help but thinking “whew!”)
  • We’ve got our first batch of students who will be working at Bella’s this summer (Welcome Aboard!!) We’ll be holding our orientation Thursday or Friday.

April 22nd, 2019

What a weekend! With all the red brick dust it felt like we were on Mars. But after a day of heavy duty cleaning by Friday afternoon we were back to normal, it was time to fire up the kitchen.

First came the vegan flavour. I messaged my vegan brother Shane asking if chocolate was good, he said yes. I said “How about peanut butter? Or caramel?” He didn’t answer in time so I added everything. Bella’s first flavour was a wonderful vegan chocolate caramel peanut butter dairy-free ice cream. Just wow. It’s so smooth and rich.

Thinking that the day was young, I decided to next make a batch of a dairy blend that I worked out. I made 11 litres of a nice rich dairy blend with cream, milk, sugar, egg yolks and skim milk powder. I rapidly cooled it and sat it in the fridge to age overnight.

The next morning I wondered what I could try making. I went for a walk in the market and saw some nice ripe bananas and decided to make roasted banana ice cream. Oh.. my… It was beautiful!

Then Sunday morning I decided to try my hand with another flavour and decided to toast some hazelnuts for a hazelnut ice cream. A big winner.

On top of three very flavourful and creamy ice creams comes today’s latest round of renovations: The cabinetry is here! It’s being installed as I type this.

April 19th, 2019

Last night and now today masonry work is being done on the front of the building. The entire ice cream parlour is now encased in a level of red brick dust and the work isn’t finished yet.

April 18th, 2019

Dipping cabinets are in. Washroom doors going in. Washroom fixtures on order. Fabric for benches headed our way. Oh man.

April 17th, 2019

A sprint to the finish line. Kitchen is DONE. Masonry on the front of the building starts tomorrow (a couple days later than originally expected)

Some of the lighting has arrived.

Dipping cabinets arrive tomorrow.

April 15th, 2019

The last of the tile went down last night – how exciting is that! It still needs to be grouted but it looks great!

More finishing work today – painting and reassembly of the front entrance, final bits of sheetrock to finish that up, more sealing of the kitchen floor, cleaning, washroom doors, …

Now to figure out the dipper wells.

April 14, 2019

I tested the machine with a basic sorbet recipe and the product was beautiful. Sorbet’s a great first test because it is a good end to end test of the ice cream maker – the dasher that spins to churn the product, the freezing cylinder and so on.

Today while the base of the new seating bench is being tiled I’m working on processes and recipes and catching up on some accounting in between coats of floor finish on the kitchen flooring.

The main front window masonry work starts on Tuesday. That’s the last major structural piece that has to be in place prior to opening. As I wrote, I went in front of the heritage committee to ask for permission to make the changes and they were very supportive (whew).

Lighting is due to start going in this week as well.

Have a great week!

April 11, 2019

Today is “worship your trades” day. Between the awesome plumbers, carpenters, labourers, masons, electricians and everyone else out there I continue to be blown away by the quality of work, attention to detail and professionalism.

Yesterday was a pretty solid day. A lot more main floor tile went down last night and is scheduled to be grouted today. The plumbing has been rebuilt in the basement – I’m glad we caught that one when it was nice clear fresh water and not, well, .. I’m relieved at the ticking time bomb that would have hit us.

I ran the ice cream maker to make sure the compressor came on and began refrigerating the freezing cylinder. Check. Also confirmed the water cooling was working properly. Check. Today the refrigeration company is giving one last check with the first batch of “sorbet” (water+sugar) to make sure it’s running optimally. Oh yes, add these guys to the list of trades I’m worshiping today.

We’re so close!

April 9th, 2019

Whoa too cool and what a relief. Ice cream maker was a very simple fix. There was a loose valve and unfortunately the refrigerant leaked out (sorry ozone layer, here’s hoping R404A is easier on the ozone layer than old school CFCs)

The compressor came on (yay!) But new problems arose with the floor drain. Should be an easy fix but we’ll know tomorrow.

In other news lots more finishing work and the skeleton of the benches has arrived and got installed. More main level tiling tonight!

April 8th, 2019

I had a great time talking to Adam from Harbour View High School yesterday. Read it here. Our whole family is so excited to be doing this, it is so much fun talking about all the things we’re going to be doing.

Also an exciting weekend because we got our first ceramic floor tiles down. The washroom tile turned out great! There’s so much work to do before we serve up even the first scoop.

Speaking about serving up scoops we hit a bit roadblock yesterday. Our ice cream maker was shipped during the cold January months and something happened to the compressor during the shipment. Here’s hoping it’s easy to fix but it’s definitely a big risk. Nothing is ever easy.

April 5th, 2019

I turned on the fridge, freezer and hooked up the ice cream maker today and ran a few sanitization runs. Tomorrow I’m going to start mix production and a couple sample batches. Guess how excited I am!

April 3, 2019

Houston… err.. Saint John, we have water! And not in the ‘the (*&)(*^ roof is leaking again’ way.

Full steam ahead to start working on test batches this weekend.

Also, the washroom tile is in and a lot of cabinetry is finished.

March 30, 2019

We’re on the one month count down. No pressure.

Well maybe some pressure. Here I was busy scrubbing away the new kitchen floors. Today with no one on site I was going to scrub away any glues and guck on the floors and go through sealing and waxing today. I’ve never been more excited to mop floors.

But wouldn’t you know it. I locked my keys inside the shop. Argh!

In other news it has been a great week! The electrical work is done other than installing the track lighting (that will come mid/late April) Most of the plumbing drains are all hooked up too which is great. Today I used the mop sink for the first time. Again, never been so excited to mop floors and use the plumbing. Well, maybe after a long road trip and a lot of coffee…

All week we got load after load of kitchen gear too so it’s getting cramped in there. I’m hoping that once my floor is all sealed and waxed I’ll move the ice cream maker, fridge and freezer back in to their positions and start setting up tables. Now this will happen Monday (see above for current location of shop keys. Argh! Car key too!).

Tile for the washrooms and the main area have also been ordered this week and are headed to Saint John. Exciting! This work could potentially kick off in a week’s time.

Finger’s crossed for this week’s heritage meeting. See Instagram (@bellastraditional) for the vision of what the building will look like.

Happy weekend!

March 25, 2019

Finally with a new wider door we can take possession.

Thanks everyone for your support and enthusiasm so far. It’s really cool you guys are excited like we are to see Bella’s come to life on Germain Street.

Plumbing and electrical are on the last mile now! I’m really happy with the amazing and professional folks who have been helping with these two key trades. We are very very close to having a working commercial kitchen where we can make our first test batch of ice cream!

Jillian and I have decided our first test batch has to be chocolate fudge brownie. Well, second batch actually. The first batch has to be a test run of sugar and water (a very basic Italian ice formula) to ensure the freezing cycle of the new ice cream maker is working properly.

I’m getting a bit nervous. The familiar swirly frame around the window in our building is on the chopping block. We’re going to open up the wall and put in a really nice new window that will let you see in to the shop. Our application goes in front of the heritage board next week.

Tomorrow we’re supposed to get another big load of kitchen equipment. It’s going to be pretty cramped in that space for a couple days.

Thanks everyone!

March 24, 2019

I spent the last two days cleaning. Lots of construction debris was sitting around plus the kitchen floors were pretty dirty. It’s a dusty place. I’m so pleased with the results!

Tomorrow I’m expecting the kitchen and serving area tile to get wrapped up and sealed in along with the backsplashes installed. Once this is in, I’ll seal and wax the floors tomorrow night.

March 22, 2019

The door came in today. What a monster. It’s a solid fire rated door but holy it’s ugly. Thankfully the building inspector gave us permission to keep it open as long as it is secured with a magnetic lock that closes in the event of a fire.

But ugh.

It sure opens up the entrance into our shop though!

In other news, the kitchen and serving area flooring is all down and looks great.

Have a great weekend!

March 20, 2019

Kitchen was painted, kitchen electrical circuits are in, kitchen floor is mostly down and plumbing is being connected. Whew. Makes me tired just typing that.

March 19, 2019

I put up a Coming Soon sticker on the front window yesterday. Hello to everyone who just found out about us!

Started the day with painted ceilings and almost-finished subfloors.

Also accidentally got delivered a first load of kitchen gear this morning. Whoops. Sorry for the 400 pound shipments guys.

March 18th, 2019

Happy Birthday to Emma Billingsley!

Lots on the go this week again – priming the walls, finishing the subfloors, energizing electrical circuits, adding more plumbing.

March 15, 2019 (Happy Friday Edition!)

Sorry for not sharing a picture of the new neon sign but, well, it is really cool and I’m saving it for opening day. It’s worth the wait.

Today and yesterday the team worked on building a subfloor. This will be used as a base for the commercial kitchen tile in the back, the bathroom tile and the new flooring we’ll have in. The guys are screwing in screw after screw after screw to secure the floor. Thanks guys. I don’t think I thank you all enough.

After a long stretch of crackfilling, sanding and dust clouds we’re entering a new exciting period of finishing work.

Next up are a couple of coats of primer on the walls over the weekend and starting next week, wrapping up the plumbing and continuing on energizing a number of electrical circuits in the kitchen.

We could be working on kitchen flooring by the end of next week or early after! Now -that- is exciting. Not to mention the designs we reviewed with the designer earlier this week.

On the front facade of the building I’m in to a difficult spot here. I didn’t make the heritage meeting in time so I don’t yet have approval to open up the front of the building. It’s going to be a sprint to the finish line to get this wrapped up in time.

It’s a roller coaster.

March 13, 2019

We have a neon sign! Oh my it’s gorgeous! Thanks to the graphics help at Pulse Communications getting things just right. I’ll post a picture later today. (sorry)

March 12, 2019

Crackfill, sand, crackfill, sand, crackfill, sand.. ugh.

March 9, 2019

March break is over and it’s back to work.

  • Most of the effort has been on crackfilling. When I looked in this morning it looks like a few coats have been applied so far. Right as I’m typing this the ceiling above the kitchen is being finished.
  • When I was away the window sills have been installed. Beautiful stone sills along the base of the back two new windows.
  • The dipping cabinet station has been built. It’s a half wall that wraps around where the dipping cabinets are going to be.
  • Some new deliveries have come in: heavenly smelling vanilla beans, pistachio and hazelnut pastes, and a whole bunch of new kitchen equipment.

Since crackfilling is going to take the rest of the week I don’t think much else is going to get done. I’m counting the days though until we get our kitchen installed so we can install the ice cream maker.

Have a great week, I’ll keep you posted!

March 2, 2019

“In like a lion, out like a fella with a fresh pint of Pistachio”
Wise old man (me)

I thought when I looked at the last date I posted that it has been several days since I last posted but then I realized February is a short month.

This week the drywall basically wrapped up, well about 95%. There are still a couple of places that are supposed to get cleaned up today. Crackfilling kicked off last night as well!

I’m hopeful the back kitchen area gets a new subfloor later this week.

February 27, 2019

  • Yesterday’s grinding of the masonry went well and today is the clean up and reconstruction in a few places. When we stripped the walls in the building we found two other chimneys that were abandoned when central heating was installed. One of which you can see in one of the washrooms in Port City Royal and the other looks like it fed the first floor. We can see where the brickwork was inserted to seal it up. Some days this feels like an archaeology project.
  • Drywall continues. Now that the electrical connections and plumbing has been installed we can close up those exposed areas.
  • We have a bit more form now where the dipping cabinets are going to go.
  • I think we’re pretty close to starting the flooring work in the kitchen and serving area.

February 25, 2019

Happy Monday!

  • Drywall continuing. Friday’s drywall was focused on getting the fire separation in place along the stairwell. While it’s a really expensive process, I’m glad we’re doing it right. The last thing you want to do is skimp out on fire protection. New sprinklers, new fire panels, alarms and pull switches and heavy duty fire separation.
  • Today the fellas are thinking they can start building the pony wall that is going to be the home to the dipping cabinets.
  • In actual ice cream notes we’ve been planning our launch flavours and making sure we have our ingredients all on order. Mmmmm pistachio.

February 23, 2019

Drywall day! The sprinkler guys finished last night. That was a big job – all the old sprinkler system in that unit was removed along with the jungle-jim risers that wiggled their way around the ceilings. It’s now really tight. The other major job that wrapped up yesterday was rebuilding and relocating the old roof drain. It was a messy week.

Today Humpty Dumpty is being put back together again. A lot of electrical work was done in the kitchen areas and washrooms and the plan is to get a lot of drywall installed today.

February 22, 2019

Chaos continuing. So picture all of these things happening at once:

  • Electricians putting in our electrical circuits in the dipping, prep and mid-prep areas.
  • Carpenters putting up drywall including work on the ceiling.
  • Plumbers working on repairing and relocating the roof drain.
  • Sprinkler fellas finishing up their work making sure the place is protected against fire and
  • Masons working on fixing the old walls bringing them back to life for more generations to enjoy.

It’s a crazy flurry of activity and a few of these things are winding up today so I’m expecting by the end of next week things to look very different in there.

All this means we’re getting really close to being able to start making test batches of ice cream, right here on Germain Street! Stay tuned!

Update: Noticed that the Bella’s website has been posted to a couple groups on Facebook. Welcome! We’ll announce publicly soon. I’ve learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to renovating old buildings. So far so good, knock on wood (but not too hard.. this is an old building after all).

Updated Update: I guess by soon I meant “two hours later”. What an exciting response from the community!

February 20, 2019

Today’s a tougher day. The chaos, the noise, the activity is normally pretty exciting to watch but today I think I’m a bit on overload. That being said, it is pretty cool to see how improved the whole ceiling is now that all of the old sprinkler system has been modernized and tightened up.

Masonry work kicks off tomorrow too. There’s a fair bit of repointing work to be done inside the building as well as rebuilding the kitchen window sills that had disintegrated.

February 17, 2019

Today… is… Window Day!

February 15, 2019

The windows have been delivered! I can’t wait to see these installed on Monday! Stay tuned for pictures.

February 14, 2019

Lots of ordering going on. So exciting!

  • Plumbing is all going in now. The first step is getting all the toilets and sink plumbing in. That’s coming along beautifully!
  • The kitchen electrical entrance was reconfigured to tidy up the wiring and make sure it’s well off the floor. Once that finished, the rest of the drywall went in to the kitchen
  • The updated fire alarm monitoring cabling is all in place too. I love that as part of Bella’s going in we’re modernizing this beautiful historic building in downtown Saint John.

February 11, 2019

  • Probably the most exciting bit is that I spent the last few days purely on ice cream production. I flew to the US to meet with a renown ice cream guru and worked through many of the recipes we’re going to be offering at Bella’s. Home made ice cream made with real ingredients here in Saint John. That is exciting!
  • Plumbing work is expected to kick off today. We’re going to start getting all the connections in for the washrooms and the kitchens. That’ll be exciting because once the plumbing is roughed in for the toilets and sinks we can start finishing up the floors.
  • There are a lot of electrical connections that are going to be needed. Today we’re going to start a couple of basic ones that wire in upgrades to the fire alarm panel and the kitchen.
  • The main wall is really progressing. There are two layers of drywall up now along most of the wall. It’s exciting to see an old heritage building being brought up to modern fire codes.

February 6, 2019

  • Sheets of drywall are going up along our fire wall that separates us from the Feel Good Store.
  • The waffle cone baker and all the accompanying bits are headed to Saint John. We’ll see if the whole building ends up smelling like wonderful fresh waffle cones.
  • THE WINDOWS ARE IN (Saint John)! Good quality heritage approved windows are really expensive and we’re proud to play our part in conserving Saint John heritage buildings. We’re replacing our first two windows at the back of the building over the next couple days.

February 5, 2019

Big news today is our daughter Claire jumping onboard helping with website and social media marketing as well as managing the hiring process for new recruits! She has already been helping a lot behind the scenes over the past 6 months on design ideas, store layout, products and social media. (Just make sure you keep up to date on your studies! Signed, Dad)

  • After a lot of research I found the right waffle iron to make home made waffle cones at Bella’s. We’re striving for a consistent amazing experience at Bella’s and this is one we don’t want to get wrong.
  • Renovations are.. exciting! More pictures next week, I promise.

February 4, 2019

  • The framing turned out great! The ceiling is going up now.
  • The hunt is on for the best waffle cone maker. I can’t wait to try it out 🙂
  • Claire updated our Instagram and Facebook accounts today.
  • I haven’t posted an update after the co2 blasting and framing but once it gets cleaned up a bit I’ll post a new picture.

February 2, 2019

  • I’m trying to focus on my todo list for today but my daughter’s “Jill’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream” keeps coming to mind. Ice Cream for Breakfast. Why not
  • Clean up day today in the shop – taking construction refuse off to the dump, lots of 2×4 kindling for this year’s bonfires, etc. It’s looking great down there!
  • Ordered some all natural flavourings today. Really exciting things. No red dye #40 here!

February 1, 2019

Here are a couple of views of framing so far. The first is the back kitchen where the magic is will-be made! The second is a view from the dipping cabinets looking towards the back kitchen.

January 30, 2019

  • Framing started today. This just got real!

January 29, 2019

  • Ice cream maker made it to Moncton
  • Framing starts within the next few hours
  • Kicking off the work to get the sprinklers and fire alarm system updated for that unit.
  • We’re going to serve ice cream a differently.

January 28, 2019

  • Dusty day but the brick has been cleaned. What a great process, the hopper keeps getting filled with co2 pellets and they blast the wall. I’m happy that’s done with though, it was messy.
  • Ice Cream maker made it to Portland so far. Oh actually I see it left Portland earlier this afternoon and is continuing its journey.

January 24, 2019

  • Ice cream maker has shipped for real this time. It’s headed to Saint John now. Suppose it’ll go to St Johns instead?
  • Rockwool is great stuff. It’s great for fireproofing but also is amazing at soundproofing.
  • Working with the fire alarm company to get all the fire alarm pull stations and monitoring stuff in place.
  • Our new point of sale came in today. I have to say, the Square system is really cool and easy to use.
  • Next week we’re ramping up to starting framing of the kitchen and washrooms. How cool is that!

January 23, 2019 Progress Update:

  • Ice cream maker has shipped and is headed to Saint John!
  • Insulating the walls and setting up staging for the inside work.
  • .. and thinking about vegan flavours with vegan uncle shane!

January 22, 2019 Progress Update:

  • Our floor was leveled. It doesn’t seem very exciting but when I lose my marbles I’ll be able to find them easy enough.
  • We thought we were going to start co2 blasting the walls today but like everything else in the maritimes we’re delayed. Next week.
  • Our dipping cabinets have arrived! But, we’re not ready for them. So off to heated storage they go.
  • Our ice cream maker will be shipped over the next couple of days.