James Johnston is a partner at Cream of the Crop and owner of Fire and Brimstone in Gilbert. Both located in Barnone, Cream of the Crop is a newly opened homemade ice cream shop while five-year-old Fire and Brimstone offers a wide variety of wood-fired ‘za, ranging from classics to quirky. (If you haven’t had the banana split and The Big Dill pizza, respectively, consider this your sign to try them.) Learn about James Johnston…
Hometown: Gilbert, AZ
First job: Working on my grandpa’s farm which is now Agritopia Farms.
Favorite ways to spend your free time in AZ: I love to fish (here in Arizona and offshore in California) and do anything outdoors with my family. We also love all the amazing restaurants available in Arizona.
Your biggest accomplishment and why: My family is my greatest accomplishment. Everything I do for work has been planned so I can still spend time with them as much as possible. My wife and I have a 2-year-old son named Reef and a daughter born on Jan. 2 of this year named Leoni.
The biggest obstacle you overcame: Starting a new business is always a challenge, but opening Cream of the Crop during the COVID pandemic had more challenges than Fire and Brimstone. We’ve been working hard to get our name out there and doing different events and community outreach to let people know we’re here and ready to serve up some delicious ice cream.
Someone who inspires you and why: My dad, Joe Johnston, definitely inspires me. He’s been in the restaurant industry for my entire life, and I’ve learned a ton from him about how to run a business, keep family first and how to be a loving father and husband.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: I would say the biggest thing is to make sure you’re doing what you love or it’s hard to succeed in anything. Also, don’t be discouraged if things don’t take off right away. As long as you keep your passion, continue to do the best you can and treat customers and employees well, then success will hopefully not be far behind
Favorite quote: “There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in a storm, a night with no moon and the anger of a gentle man.” –Patrick Rothfuss
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: I never wanted to be involved in the restaurant business. I really wanted to prove myself in the design industry and have a degree in design management from ASU, but when I was interning at a local firm in Phoenix, I started working at Liberty Market in Downtown Gilbert to pay the bills since interns aren’t generally paid in the design world. I realized pretty quickly that I preferred the fast pace of the restaurant world and swallowed my pride and decided to pursue that instead, even after working so hard to obtain my degree.
What makes someone fabulous: If someone is just plain kind and tries to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, I don’t think there’s any better character trait.