Sweet Jesus ice cream shop opens in Edmonton amidst name controversy

Recent controversies haven’t stopped Sweet Jesus from expanding into Edmonton.

The company's first Canadian expansion outside of Ontario opened Wednesday at Southgate Mall

Toronto ice cream chain Sweet Jesus is facing criticism from some Christians, who say the name makes fun of their religion. (SweetJesus/Instagram)

Recent controversies haven't stopped Sweet Jesus from expanding into Edmonton.

The ice cream company opened a shop in Edmonton's Southgate Centre on Wednesday, its first out-of-Ontario Canadian expansion.

"It was just a perfect piece of real estate that came along," co-owner Andrew Richmond told CBC's Radio Active Wednesday. "This was the opportunity that kind of presented itself and made sense." 

The company has faced some heat of late, with some Christians calling the Sweet Jesus branding "hate speech."

A petition on CitizenGo.org has gathered more than 12,000 signatures, with supporters asking for an apology and for the company to change the name.

"You have openly attacked the Christian community, and you have openly attacked God," the petition said.

But Richmond doesn't see the branding that way, and said they will not change the name.

"We view it as a term of joy, disbelief, pleasure," he said. "We, in our hearts, believe that it's an honest name for an honest product."

Richmond said the name came from a person who was trying out test flavours. He said the man would often say "Sweet Jesus, that's good."

"It just stuck as the brand's name because it was very authentic to who we were," he said. "It really comes from such an honest place."

Partnered with iHuman

Edmonton is the first Canadian city outside of Ontario to get a Sweet Jesus chain.

For the first week, the company will donate $1 from each sale of its three top-selling ice cream flavours to the iHuman Youth Society.

We, in our hearts, believe that it's an honest name for an honest product.- Andrew Richmond

Richmond said working with iHuman was an easy decision.

"We like to tie what we do to some positive engagement with the community, and iHuman just made sense," he said.

Richmond said despite criticism about the name, a second location in West Edmonton Mall is in the works.

"We have many people reach out with support," Richmond said. "We feel confident about what we've done and what we're doing."

With files from Adrienne Pan