Hello again from the East of Hampton. Time for another batch of ice cream banter. Just had my one month anniversary, time flies when you work in a candy store. I think I left you last time sitting with Rudy, the root beer kid. Sure enough, he truly is a regular. Comes in every couple of days. Always sits at the first barstool. He’s usually alone, but sometimes he’s with Bennie, the chubby jolly kid with the crew cut. Bennie’s the mayor, always has the big grin,generally goes for the banana split without the pineapple topping, talks the whole time while Rudy just studies his float like it’s a math problem. While Bennie and Rudy enjoy their cocktails, let me tell what’s been going on the past couple weeks. First and foremost, construction on the new ice cream kitchen is nearly completed. The wall between the front and back rooms has been moved, the tile floor is in, and the non-porous whiteboard is up. The 3-phase electrical power is installed (that one hurt the wallet a little, need it for the batch freezer, my gift to the old building). Dad’s located most of the equipment I need. In fact, the first piece, a walk-in refrigerator, was delivered and assembled today! The best news there is he was able to score a used batch freezer, saving me a pile of money, (I just saved a bunch of money on my batch freezer. Sorry Geiko.) so I am still on-budget (knocking on the hardwood floor right now). Now we just have to figure out how to get this 600 pound gorilla from one defunct ice cream shop in CT to my place in Easthampton.
Once we get the equipment in place and run the final electrical and water hookups (and one other small detail of getting board of health approval), the ice cream making fun can begin. The other part of the ice cream making prep work is lining up all the suppliers. This basically involves finding a good local dairy, a topping, bulk ingredient and cone supplier, and a paper products distributor for the paper bowls and such. Dad’s been working the network pretty hard these past two weeks (see I told you it was all about the network), and things seem to be falling into place nicely here too. I had a great opportunity to meet a bunch of suppliers last week. Yep, I went to my first ice cream conference. Very cool. It was held at the Woodstock Inn in Vermont, a beautiful little resort town in the woods. I remember sleeping through countless conferences during my engineering days at Lucent, but my first NEICRA conference was a completely different experience (NEICRA – New England Ice Cream Restaurant Association of course). Good people. Attendees were mostly Mom and Pop (and son) shop owner types, ranging in ages from 20’s to 70’s. There was a small trade-show floor to peruse between seminars. Sessions included topics like effective website designs, hiring great employees, good scooping techniques, and marketing ideas for logos, signage, advertising, etc.
Talks were given by professional consultants, not unlike the typical tech seminar, but it just felt different. I’m not sure if it had something to do with the fact that I paid for the conference myself, or that the examples used and questions asked during the talks related to ice cream, but it was actually interesting, and I didn’t nod off once. During breaks, I walked around the tradeshow floor and checked out hot fudge suppliers and schmoozed with ice cream cone vendors and dairy owners. My Dad knows a lot of these people and had already touched base with a number of them by phone, told them his son would be at the conference. I felt a little like a rock star. People were looking for me. I had just gotten there and was sitting at a table for the first session when these two guys walked by. I overheard one saying to the other, I gotta find this Jim Ingram. To their surprise, I looked up and said ‘Hi, I’m Jim Ingram’. Quite a few people I met knew Dave, my Dad, the original ice cream man and unconfirmed inventor of Rocky Road. The conference gave me a chance to chat with other shop owners, to quiz them and get ideas on subjects that are important to me now like, is the Zerol #16 the best scoop? And do you still use 2-Fold pure Vanilla in your blends?
During a break I called back to my shop to see how Betty was doing. In the middle of the call, I got a flashback of Dad looking for a payphone during some family outing when I was a kid. And at that moment I realized the transition to taking on Dad-like ice cream shop owner traits was underway. If I start wearing blue pants every day, I’ll know the metamorphosis is complete. The conference was well worth it. I learned a ton and made some good contacts for my own little ice cream network, like my cool new friend Janet who manages an ice cream shop in Sharon, Massachusetts.
One thing I’ve noticed a lot over the past couple months is how many people who have ‘appeared’ in my life to help figure things out. If you know me, you know I have a penchant for reading those self-improvement type books. My last read was ‘Excuse me, Your Life is Waiting’, by Lynn Grabhorn. Her thesis is that it’s not positive thinking that works, it’s positive ‘feeling’. You create an image in your mind of the ideal experience, life, mate, whatever it is you desire, then attach to it all the feelings you think you’ll get when you have that in your life. And while you’re at it, stop thinking about what you don’t want (just got a Red Sox playoffs flashback). This creates positive vibrational energy (according to her thesis) which in turn draws positive things into your life. Like attracts like. Back in June, I created a sexy and fun image of owning and operating a successful ice cream business, and voila, things started happening. With a bit of luck and scoop equity, hopefully the success part with come next Summer. To recap, simply create an image in your mind of the life and success you want, stop thinking about what you don’t want, start taking action, and just let the universe fill in the gaps. Just a little ice cream food for thought. This concludes the philosophizing segment of our show.
Anyway, back to lighter notes, let me now share some random thoughts and experiences from the past couple weeks. In no particular order, here are some recent entertaining moments (at least they were entertaining to me)… A little girl came into the shop and picked out a couple pennies from the ‘give a penny, take a penny’ cup on the counter. Then she holds out her hand and asks me, ‘what can I get for this’. She goes over to a jar and pulls out the two pieces of candy I told her she could afford, then adds two more. She gives me four cents, having added two of her own to the ‘take a penny’ donation. See, visualize what you want and the universe finds a way to help you… The first guy I met at the conference was the franchising manager from Ben and Jerry’s. I told him my place was in Easthampton, NY…
Two kids came into the shop and sat down at the barstools. They didn’t say anything. They weren’t even looking up at the menu board as if they were trying to decide on a flavor. I figured they were more regulars and again I didn’t know what their ‘usual’ was. I finally approached them and asked, ‘what’ll it be today?’. They said, ‘that’s ok, we don’t want anything. We’re just playing hide and seek’. I couldn’t bring myself to throw them out for using my shop as a hiding place…
I had just served a man and his two boys a few ice cream cones, and he was paying for it. I must have hit a wrong key somewhere on the cash register because when I hit subtotal, it read $285.48. When my Dad came over to help me try to figure out what I’d done wrong, the customer says to him, ‘Wow, you’ve raised quite the entrepreneur, 285 bucks for 3 ice creams.’ … As you might guess, business isn’t booming quite yet. I haven’t advertised or even changed the name on the window (it still says Sunrise Sweeties, which as one of my friends pointed out, seems to suggest a product of a more amorous nature).
So at the end of the day when I’m closing up shop, while I shut the big wooden front door and turn the key, I like to exclaim, ‘They won’t be shutting down the Bailey Savings and Loan today!’ Ok, so I’m easily entertained. But we’ll just see if you mysteriously get a hankerin’ for an ice cream cone in the middle of watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” this holiday season… Anyway, looks like I’ve reached my two page limit (I realize the last episode was a bit long, don’t want to get an angry email from your boss), so I’ll say so long for now.
Next time I’ll tell you about the wine tasting gala this weekend (it’s at the gallery next door, they’re going to announce me as the new business on the block), let you know how much closer I am to making my own ice cream, let you in on my starting lineup of flavors, and tell you about my bold experiment of making a ‘beer float’.
Until then, remember, life’s short, eat ice cream.
Have a great weekend,