Real Milk, Real Ice Cream
My mother had a dream of owning an ice cream shop.Her plan was to renovate a caboose into a walk up ice cream stand. (Hence our name Toots) After a lengthy search one was found nearby. What came to us from the local railroad yard was a graffiti covered orange rail car that was originally used as a caboose (not your typical looking caboose). With lots of work, and many coats of red paint, along with a front porch covered by a bright red and white awning our ice cream shop was born. (Local kids can’t wait to see the awning go back up in the spring because they know it signifies the start-up of the shop.) We outfitted the inside the best we could and opened up on Memorial Day weekend in 1998, really not having the first clue about how to make a shake, a sundae or for that fact how to really scoop a cone. What helped us out was we knew how we would want things to look if they were being served to us, and we knew that friendly service was a must. For the first four years we sold a popular name brand ice cream. Then in 2002 my mother was reading an article that talked about “going to ice cream school” at the Carpigianni headquarters in North Carolina. I looked at my husband and said lets try it out. After the first day I called up my mother and said …” we are having such a blast making ice cream! We need to get one of these machines.” My mother was a little nervous investing that amount of money into something she wasn’t sure was going to work, but, we gave it our all and have since been making our own ice cream. Our hopes are to not only produce the best tasting and finest quality ice cream product but to use our shop to help pay the taxes on our farm land. We have the last bit of open land in our town. My father purchased this 200 acre farm in the mid 1980's. He had worked on it since he was a teenager and always dreamed of having it. He raises beef cattle and grows hay. Although farming is more of a hobby for him and the rest of our family, we do not want to see the open fields swallowed up by housing developments. We have actually out grown our caboose in many ways, but are reluctant to move for the fact that it’s being placed in the center of our farm yard has been a big draw for our customers. People and their children still stop even though we are closed for the winter to visit with the animals. We have all your typical farm life and a few not so typical: Cows, horses, pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, pot belly pigs, roosters and a life time resident Ox whom we named an ice cream flavor after (Cherry-O-Charlie). Our business has definitely grown with each passing year. We now have to go ‘outside’ our family to hire employees. Each year our flavor assortment grows. We have too many to offer them all at once, which can pose a problem from time to time. Since the early part of 2009 we have started supplying our ice cream to a few local restaurants. We really like to know what we put into our ice cream. My mother makes all the cookie dough, brownies, whoopie pies and apple pies that go into each flavor. Over the past few years we have slowly started to do “ice cream socials” . Companies hire us to bring all the makings of a sundae to their individual buildings to give their employees an appreciation party. It’s been a fun way to get our name and product out around. I am proud of what we have done over the years, and the fact that it has been a “family” effort. I have truly enjoyed every minute of working along side my mother making ice cream, messes both big and small and everything inbetween. Summertime is no longer a time to rest, relax and goof off, (but that’s not something our family was accustomed to anyway). Our summer is full of long lines, who’s working when, do we need more cookie dough and how much ice cream needs to be made. Hard as it can be, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.