Justine Cosley is a hardworking Pittsburgh businesswoman, owning two businesses and helping to support her family. Cosley owns the Black and Cold Creamery in West Mifflin, serving up coffee, ice cream, shakes, paninis and more. She also owns her own cat grooming business, making her entrepreneurship less than typical. We spoke with Cosley and learned more about her business background and just exactly how she ended up owning a milkshake business and cat grooming business.
PITTSBURGH BEAUTIFUL: What inspired you to open your milkshake shop?
JUSTINE COSLEY: There were many things that inspired me to open the ice cream shop. I grew up around the Village shopping plaza. We use to have an old fashioned Isaly’s in the plaza when I was growing up and I wanted to bring some of that back to the Village. The unit that the shop is in used to be a jewelry store. When I was 10, an 11-year-old boy bought me a Miz-Pah necklace from the jewelry store. I told him I was going to marry him. He wouldn’t talk to me for eight years, but I have the ultimate “I was right.” We will be celebrating our 24th wedding anniversary on October 23rd and we opened the ice cream shop on our oldest daughter’s 16th birthday. Another reason I opened the shop is because I love Hershey’s hand-scooped ice cream and couldn’t find it locally. Having the cat grooming business for two years, our customers asked if there was anywhere locally that they could get cup of coffee. I kept waiting for someone to open a coffee shop in the village. No one did, so I did (the Black and Cold Creamery). The unit is right next to my grooming shop. They are not connected in any way.
PITTSBURGH BEAUTIFUL: Did you always want to open your own business growing up?
JUSTINE COSLEY: Growing up, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but I hated school. I graduated from the Median School of Allied Health Careers as a Veterinary Assistant in ’91. I was a veterinary assistant for five years then went on to grooming. I groomed dogs and cats up until about 2010 then decided that I only wanted to groom cats. There were several dog groomers in my area and I felt that cats needed a place to go where they could feel secure with no other dogs around. I became a Certified Master Feline Groomer through the National Cat Groomers Association of America. I was a vet assistant and my assistant also trained as a vet assistant and we do all new cats with 2 people. Cats are much better for grooming than most people think. Grooming cats is all about understanding what they are feeling and working with the cat to get the best reaction from them. We absolutely love it.
PITTSBURGH BEAUTIFUL: Can you tell us a little more about Black and Cold Creamery? What is your best-selling item?
JUSTINE COSLEY: We just started out with the mission to be a coffee and ice cream shop but employees at nearby businesses kept asking if we could make food, so we bought a panini machine. We have two paninis named after the chief of security at Kentwood, Larry Russ: “The Larry” and “The Russini.” They were combinations that Larry put together and ordered so much that we decided to name them after him. “The Larry” is chicken, bacon, artichoke hearts, spinach, smoked gouda and garlic aioli. “The Russini” is pepperoni, chicken, pizza sauce, roasted red peppers and mozzarella. I would say that our specialty is our milkshakes. We love to mix flavor combinations. I would say that our most popular shake is the Pumpkin Cheesecake shake that bring back every fall. We put a small slice of cheesecake in the pumpkin ice cream and blend it into a shake.
PITTSBURGH BEAUTIFUL: How did your cat grooming business come about? Did you ever imagine you’d be owning two completely different businesses?
JUSTINE COSLEY: As a dog groomer, I’d always been a “closet cat lover”. I was good with dogs, but always had a special affection for cats. There was no real feline related grooming training until the National Cat Groomers Association came to be formed. I was one of the original members of this organization and was the first remote certify in the world chosen for their school. Most people think that cats can’t be groomed, or that it is so hard, but we love taking each cat, finding it’s likes and dislikes and working with it. We groom many cats because they are elderly, arthritic or obese, and just can’t reach certain spots anymore. We groom other cats because their owners want to reduce shedding. We don’t think every cat needs professional grooming but we do think that most cats can benefit from regular professional grooming.Honestly, I never thought I would own one business, let alone two. It’s hard work. I work 80 hours a week between both of them while we are trying to get the ice cream shop going. Sometimes I work 12-14 hours a day between both places. I work half the day at the ice cream shop, then don my grooming gear and go next door and groom cats the other half of the day. I’m better at a quick change than Clark Kent. I’ve always been a hard worker. I watched my mother go from housewife to single mom and have to go back to school to learn a career to support our family. I think because of that, I always wanted to have a skilled trade. When my daughters who are now 14 and 17 were younger, I revolved my grooming schedule around them. Now that they are older, they work at my ice cream shop. They are both certified food handlers. I’m proud to show them how hard work pays off and that they can do anything and be anything they want to be. Our motto is “You don’t get what you wish for, you get what your work for.” We have just ordered a soft serve machine, so we are hoping that that will increase sales. We stay open all year-round (closing on Sundays after daylight savings time) because we are in a shopping plaza.
PITTSBURGH BEAUTIFUL: What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring business owners?
JUSTINE COSLEY: My best advice to aspiring business owners is to not believe you are going to be an overnight success. First, there are years of hard work and self-doubt but if you are tenacious, you can persevere.
PITTSBURGH BEAUTIFUL: What do you love most about living in Pittsburgh and what do you think makes Pittsburgh a beautiful city?
JUSTINE COSLEY: I think what I love the most about Pittsburgh are the people. Each neighborhood is so different, yet, so similar. I think the people of Pittsburgh are optimists. Every year, we believe that we aren’t going to have a terrible winter. We believe our sports teams are going to win their championships. We aren’t afraid to climb hills and work hard. I love the spirit of Pittsburghers. That’s what makes it beautiful. I love the old and the new. We have our traditions but we are always trying to make things better. We’ve come so far since being dubbed the smoky city.