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Inside Scoop: Ice Cream Shop Builds Reputation First

ice cream Buck Buchanan / Credit: Lumpy's Ice Cream

When Buck Buchanan opened a store for his homemade ice creams earlier this year, it represented the culmination of a journey that started just more than a decade ago. Now Buchanan, the founder of Lumpy's Ice Cream, has hopes for more. 

Buchanan, who started selling his ice creams at festivals, concerts and sporting events, spoke with BusinessNewsDaily about what he learned in his journey, the challenges of opening a store and how a partnership and series of videos with the Hartford Insurance company was able to help him on his journey.  

BusinessNewsDaily: Why did you start Lumpy's Ice Cream?

Buck Buchanan: I am a chef by trade and I have always loved ice cream.  While raising our kids, my wife, Denise, and I alternated work and home life so that our kids did not have to go to day care. When I was home, I planned cooking classes, which I conducted at night. During the classes I would use the kitchen equipment and I started to experiment with a little ice cream maker. One thing led to another and we soon bought a 20-quart batch freezer, and the rest became history.

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BND: What opportunity did you see that you thought you could take advantage of?

BB: For years our loyal customers would ask the question, 'Where do I go to buy Lumpy’s Ice Cream?' The recent downturn in the economy combined with the awesome attention Lumpy’s got from a series of videos following a business claim with the Hartford Insurance Co., made conditions right for us to open a store (in February 2012).

BND: Can you speak a bit about the challenges you faced when trying to open your store and how you overcame those challenges?

BB: Location was the biggest challenge. In the 11 years that we have been in business, many other local ice cream businesses have come and gone. The one thing, we observed, was that they picked the wrong location. Along with the wrong location, these businesses spent a tremendous amount of resources building a brand before they built a reputation. I was already fairly well known as a chef in Raleigh (N.C.), and I had an anchor contract to serve ice cream at a local amphitheater, so making the leap to retailing my ice cream was a natural progression. It took a lot of effort (and the grace of God) to build brand recognition, but that only comes with time, patience, and consistently delivering a superior product.

BND: What can other businesses learn from your story?

BB: Having the best product is not enough to make a successful small business. Research and planning were keys to our success. For example, after years of observing, we recognized that a location that may work for a hamburger stand would not work for an ice cream shop. We also realized that we could learn from other people’s mistakes and not make them ourselves.

BND: What advice do you have for other businesses or entrepreneurs?

BB: We had to wait until we were literally “busting at the seams” before we made a move, which increased our overhead 10 times. I literally could not turn around in my little shop without bumping into something. I could not fit another box of ice cream in my freezer.

If you are a small business owner and you have a great product, stay small and keep your overhead low while you are building a reputation for being the best at what you do. If you truly are the best, then doors will start to open to you, then you may be in a better position to take advantage of opportunities when they are presented to you.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily staff writer David Mielach at Dmielach@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @D_M89.

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