October 7, 2003
Hello from my new hometown of Easthampton, Massachusetts. I thought it might be fun to try to capture and share with my buddies a little bit of my new life as engineer turned ice cream man. I know writing about myself may seem a bit self-indulgent, and I guess it probably is, but I got beyond that by convincing myself it would be a good way to keep up my writing skills between batches of ice cream. You may remember last year at about this time reading my Dingo Notes and Kiwi Notes. Well, unfortunately I’m not now sitting in a cyber café, half-drunk on New Zealand house white, and living out of a big green backpack with its dorky detachable daypack. Which also means I won’t be sharing stories of exotic tramping adventures on majestic glaciers in New Zealandor dodging venomous snakes (or crazy young British tourists) deep in the Australian bush. Instead, as you probably already know, I am just about to start an adventure of a much different flavor. I have just completely the purchase of an ice cream business! I thought doing an email journal to capture the experience would be fun (and perhaps even functional) for a few reasons. First, and most importantly, since my new business is in central Massachusetts, nearNorthampton, I am now about 8 exits west on the Mass Pike from most of y’all, and I thought this might be a way to help me keep in touch. Of course, I hope this will be just one of many ways to do that. Consider this an open invitation for you to come out and visit me anytime. Let’s just say I didn’t get a second bedroom for my fish.
The second reason for ‘ice cream diaries’ is so I can record the trials and tribulations and exhilarations of starting my first business – like one of my travel journals I can pull off a dusty bookcase in thirty years and realize how naïve I really was back then. And for you, I wanted to find a way to share the process, whether you simply enjoy reading about it (hopefully it’ll be at least more enjoyable than work emails and won’t get to sounding like a Christmas card letter) or you are a closet entrepreneur and are curious about what all goes into it. You can learn about the experience, and I won’t even make you co-sign for my bank loan.
The final reason for IC Diaries is one of my romantic notions with this ice cream venture is that no matter where it takes me, to success and happiness or just another lesson to tell my little brother, it will provide fodder for future writing projects, perhaps that prize-winning screenplay, “Ice Cream Diaries”. In any event, I hope you enjoy them, and if not, I won’t be at all offended if you send me an email saying “Stop spamming me with your endless ice cream drivel!” And if this is the only installment you get from me, that probably means it turned out to be much more work than even Dad had warned me about!
Having now set the stage, let me bring you up to date. If I haven’t seen you in a while, you’re first question probably is, how did you go from supply chain engineer (you probably never really knew what that meant anyway) to ice cream guy? It’s hard to say exactly, but it all started somewhere along my seventeen months sabbatical (sounds better than unemployed). In the midst of travel, writing, socializing, moving, and watching reruns of the Gilmore Girls, I decided my calling of engineering was not calling me anymore. Not even late at night when it was drunk and horny. So as things went, I finished my travel adventures (rather anticlimactically by going to the Blytheville, Alabama WalMart whereby completing my quest to see all 50 states), wrapped up my little coffee table book project, and next found myself being tossed out of my cool apartment in Charlestown with just 30 days to avoid having to live in an old couch under Storrow Drive. To keep a dull story short, I decided rather than move to a new apartment and be faced with the likely outcome of having to move again when I got a job, I chose to go home again. Yep, I’ve living in the folks’ basement for the past few months. And as ‘unnatural’ as that sounds (credit to my Aunt Alma for that fitting adjective), it synchronicitly (I think I just made that word up) put me again under the same roof as one famous ice cream man, my Dad. He has been in the ice cream business for 40 years. So you see, ice cream truly is in my blood.
My Dad, ‘Dave’, created a couple different shops, the 2nd one he sold just a month before I was laid-off back in April of ‘02. Anyway, so I’m knocking around the folks’ house in Mansfield, picking up old copies of the National Dipper, a magazine made by and for ice cream makers, and I come across an old box of MBA school notes. In the box is a complete business plan that I wrote back in Entrepreneurial Studies class. The business I chose, back in 1993 was ‘The Ice Creamery’, one of Dad’s shops. Hey, you don’t have to hit me over the head three times to get my attention. From there, I started peppering Dad with ice cream shop questions. For the first time, he didn’t try to talk me out of it, like when I wanted to put a hot tub in my bedroom back in high school or when I threatened to quit college to become a rapper. Dad still did his best to talk me out of it by painting a picture of long hours and Johnny Damon-like headaches that come with running your own business, but I could always tell he was secretly hoping he would someday get to relive the glory days of making ice cream.
From there, the search for the perfect location for my ice cream dreams was on.
In the next installment (should you decide to accept), I’ll tell you how I ended up in Easthampton, and give you a taste of the fun and mayhem it took to land my first ice cream gig…and why I am now the Uncle of my nephew’s dreams. Hint: it has something to do with the fact that my new ice cream shop is also a candy store…
Have a great week, go Sox!
CSO – Chief Scooping Officer
Mt. Tom’s Homemade Ice Cream, Inc.