Episode 4 November 10, 2003

Hello again.  It’s me again with another gut-growing episode of the Ice Cream Diaries.   Before I close up shop for the Thanksgiving holiday I thought I’d add an entry to the old captain’s log.   We’re dangerously close to getting the new ice cream factory up and running.   Now I just have to find some midgets to work in it.  No wait, that’s a chocolate factory.   But I digress already.   Kitchen hardware now includes a walk-in refrigerator (a ‘walk-in box’ as they call it in the biz.), a chocolate cooker (midgets were optional), a blast freezer, a stainless steel work table, a triple compartment sink, and a batch freezer.   Dad and I had a lot of fun picking up that last item.   Somehow, we were able to roll this 400 pound orangutan onto the back of Dad’s pickup truck, drive it back, and move it into place.   Jim the plumber and his crew spent a day this week hooking everything up (new venting pipe included), and Dan the electrician later ran the power to the new gadgets.  A fresh coat of paint for the new wall and a few other minor adjustments are all that’s left on the punch list, and the kitchen will be ready for that awesomely great guy, the health inspector (some gratuitous brown-nosing just in case I accidentally leave a copy of ICD-4 lying around). We also moved in the new soda fountain.  Right next to the cool, old, all stainless fountain.  Form next to function.    Sherod the sign artist and 60’s throwback is lined up to paint the logo on the front window (after I scrape off the ‘Sunrise Sweeties’ sign, pass the Goo Gone).   Brent, my ace graphic designer, is putting the finishing touches on a fun and funky new business card as well as a t-shirt version of the logo (t-shirts…part of the planned ‘uniform’, not to mention the shameless Christmas gift of choice this year).

Well, that pretty well sums up the major start-up activities of the past few weeks.  It’s exciting to see it starting to come together.

Truffles and trivia…

The wine tasting at the gallery next door to the shop turned out to be both a great time and an awesome marketing opportunity.   There were over 200 people there.   As luck would have it, the woman who owns the gallery is also my landlord.  She gave a quick thank-you speech then introduced me to the crowd.   I had to stand on a milk crate in the middle of the room and give a little pitch for my new business.  So in one 2 minute speech I was transformed from one average Joe who went to a wine tasting alone to the coolest new ice cream guy in town.   It was a who’s-who of the local area in attendance, including the mayor (the real one not the root beer float kid), so it really was a great opportunity to work on the word-of-mouth for Mt. Tom’s.

It’s amazing how many cold calls you get from salespeople.  Super-pages, Yellow Pages, local newspapers, printers, you name it.   As soon as there’s a faint scent of a new business, they’re on you like hot fudge on a sundae.   One recent sales seagull was the Coke rep.  I had to do some fancy footwork to explain the big Coke display fridge I’m using to sell Hank’s Soda and store my lunch meat.   I’m pretty sure he wants it back.

During the final days of my ‘sabbatical’, I put together a little story to sum up my layoff and career redirection experience.  Soon after I moved here, I submitted it to the local newspaper, the Hampshire Daily Gazette.   Believe it or not, they published it last weekend in their ‘guest column’ section!   Snuck in a nice little plug for the new business at the end.  Working on parlaying it into some form of a regular guest column by that ‘ice cream writer guy’.  You can check out the on-line version (if you haven’t seen it yet)….     http://www.gazettenet.com/story.cfm?id_no=11150136

And while I’ve got you surfing around, let me point you to my new website.   www.mttoms.com   Humble beginning, much more work still to do on it, but I wanted to get something out there.   And to make sure the URL was mine before I ordered new business cards, etc.  I also have a slick new email address to go with it.  jim@mttoms.com

More Random Rants:

I was watching Jay Leno the other night.  He had Britney Spears as a guest.  Jay asked her, “With all your riches, what’s your favorite indulgence?”   Her answer… ice cream.  So now you know the real reason I went into this new career.

Got in my first big order of bulk candy the other day.  456 pounds.  Over 100 pounds of Jelly Bellys (that’s gourmet jelly beans in case you’re not up on your candy brands).   So I’m all restocked with giant gummy snakes, fruit runts, and pina colada jelly beans.   Note to self…never unpack candy order when you’re hungry.  Also learned a new term in the process.  ‘Pre-book’.   A lot of the candy I tried to order was out of stock (or pre-booked for someone else). Seems you need to ‘pre-book’ to be assured of getting what you need around holiday times.   Now I just have to apply this new knowledge to make sure I‘pre-book’ for Valentine’s Day.

Betty won employee-of-the-month again.

I actually did try to make a beer float one night.  Threw a scoop of vanilla into a glass of Sam Adams.   Believe it or not, it wasn’t that bad.   There was one small technical issue of the sugar in the ice cream reacting to the yeast in the beer, which made it foam up like the volcano in Greg Brady’s science experiment.   A few minor adjustments, and I think this issue can be overcome.   I’ll keep you posted on my daring dessert experiments.  Hey, I never said I was trying to cure cancer.

Move over Flying Nun (sorry about the bad 70’s reference), I met a chocolatier nun the other day.   Sister Beverly from Mt. Marie in Holyoke.   Turns out she’s been making chocolate for years and is just about to hang up her molds.  She’s on her last ’70 pounds’ (I know that sounds like an infomercial for Dr. Phil’s weight loss program).  She makes her final batches next week.  And here’s the good part.  She invited me over to the convent for a tour of her chocolate kitchen.   She even offered to give me some instructions and share a few secret recipes, handed directly to her from God.   So I got that going for me.   Which is nice.   I just gotta remember to watch my language.

Did the Caddyshack line just then make up for the Flying Nun reference?   Didn’t think so.

Well, since I dragged this conversation down to bad TV shows, it’s probably time to call it a day.  The ‘hide-and-seek’ kids just came in for some candy anyway.   The ring-leader of this gang is a mini version of Eric Estrada.   Always gets exactly one dollar’s worth of candy, lays it out on the counter, stares at me while I ring it up, like he’s waiting for a grade, then takes the booty and leads his band back to their bikes.

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.   Hope it’s wicked good.

Thanks for playing.



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