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You: Starting an…Ice Cream Shop

You: Starting an…Ice Cream Shop


Business Type: Ice Cream Store Owner
Owner: Gregory Cohen
Business Name: Lofty Pursuits

We've all had dreams of starting our own business. But, often, the challenge is figuring out how to turn your brilliant business idea into a profitable adventure. In our series, "You: Starting a Business," we ask real business owners to tell us how they started their successful small businesses.

This week, we interview Gregory Cohen, owner of the Tallahassee, Fla.-based ice cream parlor Lofty Pursuits. He tells us how he got started and, more importantly, what his most popular ice cream flavor is.

BusinessNewsDaily: What were your initial startup costs?

Gregory Cohen: Well this is hard to say. The business started in 1993, but has expanded a few times, most recently being spring of 2010. Start up costs are not a one time thing. Back in 1993, I have no idea how much I invested in the business, when we added the ice cream shop it was another large amount. It should have been about $125,000 but by buying used at the low time of the economy I was able to keep that under $22,000. (about $.08 on the dollar). I could not repeat this now.

BND: How long did it take you to make a profit?

G.C.: Depends on the definition of a profit. I made [a profit] in seven months after the investment, but since sales and investment is a fluid thing; never and imminently could also be the answer.

BND: What are your biggest overhead expenses?

G.C.: Payroll . People are your most important asset. Pay the ones you want to keep well enough that they don't want to leave you.

BND: What has been the biggest challenge?

G.C.: The rhythm of sales. With the move to the current location predicting when customers will be here has been impossible. This is true with any new location. In our old location Easter weekend and Mothers day were dead, current location we were slammed. Memorial Day at the old location was hot. Here it is dead. No idea why it's different but it is. I track this for future years.

BND: How do you find suppliers?

G.C.: Anywhere I can. Often I find them at trade shows. Often I network with other business owners in a similar line from around the country. Often I say "this should exist" and I look around on-line and find I'm right and I start stocking that. Occasionally I have things made specifically for me that don't exist but should.

BND: What is your most popular flavor of ice cream?

G.C.: Deep Dark Chocolate

BND: How many different flavors do you have?

G.C.: Forty out for serving at any time of a rotation of about 140

BND: What months are you the busiest?

G.C.: July and December

BND: What is the most popular ice cream topping?

G.C.: Butter Caramel

BND: How many hours do you work in a typical day?

G.C.: Nine

BND: Where does the ice cream come from?

G.C.: Cows. Ummm.  Old Meeting House Ice Cream of Tampa, Fla.

BND: Do you let your employees eat ice cream for free?

G.C.: Yes

BND: What do you do when someone does not like the ice cream they chose and wants another kind?

G.C.: This almost never happens. Every flavor is so good. Give them another scoop. Nobody leaves unhappy .

BND: What was the last flavor if ice cream you discontinued?

G.C.:  We do not discontinue flavors; we just reduce them in rotation. A few flavors are for special events so they are only single batch.

BND: Do you let customers sample the ice cream?

G.C.: Yes

BND: How do you keep the ice cream fresh?

G.C.: [We keep the] back stock in a -20 degree freezer.

BND: How have you dealt with rising ice cream costs?

G.C.: Raised prices.

BND: What's the "next big thing" in ice cream?

G.C.: Ice cream sodas.

BND: How have your energy bills been?

G.C.: About what I expected.

BND: Why do you think people love ice cream so much?

G.C.: Because it is a sense memory of childhood.

If you are interested in opening your own ice cream parlor, you can get more information from these ice cream business associations: The National Ice Cream Retailers Associations and the Ice Cream Alliance.