Yummies wasn’t the first choice of business names for ice cream shop owner Valerie Hoffman, Creekside Treats was. However, after one of her first customers turned to her young daughter and said “Oh, this is so yummy,” Hoffman thought to herself “This is good.”
That was 10 years ago.
On Saturday, Yummies, 12 Center St., Warsaw, is hosting a celebration to mark its decade in business and its 11th season.
“My 8-year-old daughter at the time, picked out the name Yummies,” Hoffman said. “There were a couple of different names I was thinking about, but Yummies won.”
About a dozen years ago, the only ice cream shop in Warsaw closed down. Ten years ago she was working at Genesee Community College with the Upward Bound program and every day she would pass by the empty building on her way to work.
“When Wayne’s World (where Tim Hortons is now) closed, I kept thinking that the building would make a great ice cream shop. So I decided Warsaw needed an ice cream shop. Things started falling into place of what I thought God wanted me to do. So I bought the building.”
Prior to Yummies opening, the building was Shears Restaurant – back in the ’70s and ‘80s – a coffee shop, a taco place, and a health food shop.
“People come in and tell me they remember when it was Shears,” she said. “It looks very different from what it did then though.
“I was very scared about the initial investment. When I first thought about opening an ice cream shop I thought ‘How hard can it be?’… The best advice I can give…work in that business first. I would not have made it through my first year if not for the two girls who started working for me then. Between the two, they had more than nine years experience in the ice cream business.”
To help celebrate Hoffman’s business milestone, three of Yummies original employees – Robin L’Wall, Hanna Ross, and Holden Case – will be scoopin’ ice cream from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Serving ice cream is a physically demanding job and does require thought, Hoffman says. Not only are employees “stoopin’ and scoopin’ for an entire shift,” and rotating stock – each 2-gallon container of ice cream weights approximately 10 pounds – there are certain tricks to the trade to give customers a proper order as well.
“There is a system for everything.”
From the rotation of the stock to the refrigeration of sorbet – it requires a different temperature than ice cream to keep cold – to carrying flavors and toppings the customers like.
“I have to carry what everyone likes,” Hoffman laughed. “Not just what I like. And I’m mindful about freshness.”
To learn more about owning her own business, Hoffman took an entrepreneurship course through the county. To learn more about ice cream, she became a member of the National Ice Cream Association. She even traveled to Cleveland to learn how to create her own custom flavors. While some of her flavors are originals – Muddy Frog ice cream is a concoction from the minds of her employees – the Cookie Monster variety came from Connecticut – with a slight tweak of her own.
“I turned it blue.”
Hoffman didn’t start making her own Yummies creations until about three years ago.
“I found that people like stuff in their ice cream, so when I make everything, the added ‘stuff’ has to be hand stirred in. I get the ideas (for flavors) from anything.”
And her energy and imagination are boundless.
For April Fools' Day, Yummies has served up flavors like wasabi, wingin’ it, and pickle-flavored ice cream to her customers. To wit, the pickle variety inspired the children’s book “Yummies Ice Cream Surprise” by author Valerie Putney and illustrator Stephanie Russell, both of whom will be on hand at the shop from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday.
“The ice cream was good…until you got to the pickle pieces or chicken in it, then it was a bit funky. We gave away samples to people. It was just for fun, not to sell.”
Not only does she make her own flavors, she also makes the waffle cones every day and had developed a flavor just for her vegan customers.
“Vegan ice cream has zero animal product in it. Customers wanted something creamy, but vegan. It took me a few tries to get it right, but…It’s made with coconut milk, Oreos, and peanut butter. I had to be conscientious that no animal products are used.”
Patrons of Yummies are not only greeted by the 15 employees that cover the various shifts throughout the day, they follow an ice cream path, of sorts, to the patio and are then “greeted” by Yum E. Bear – a 3-foot metal sculpture situated near the side entrance. Students in Warsaw’s technology class at the BOCES in Mt. Morris made ice cream patterned stamps for the shop. When the concrete was poured, the stamps were used to create the imprints in the freshly poured walkway.
“When I was at a United Way fundraiser three years ago, I bought the bear. I have him secured to the patio as a detour for a tripping hazard.”
Although she says the bear may appear scary to her younger patrons, she likes to dress him up to make him a bit more friendly. But Yum E. Bear has not exactly diminished her business. Last Sunday alone the shop went through approximately 60 gallons of ice cream, not including soft serve, sorbet or the vegan variety, and approximately 1,500 customers were served.
“I like to have fun. I’m very social. I like to talk to people. I like interacting with my employees. We even have a custom-made corn hole game for our customers to play.”
Hoffman is community minded outside of her business as well. At the end of the season she donates the remaining ice cream to the Warsaw Fire Department. Firemen take over the shop for a day and scoop for donations.
“You can’t keep ice cream. Ten years ago, my brother-in-law, who was chief at the time, had the idea and we made it happen. We’ve been doing it ever since and try to make it a fun day for the kids.”
And, it just so happens to coincide with Fire Safety Week at the school.
While Hoffman enjoys the challenges and rewards with owning her own business, she does wish there were two of her.
“There’s just so many things I’d like to do. I would like to open another location, but I feel I need to be present…and you can’t be present in two locations.”
But for now, Hoffman is satisfied with scoopin’ and selling Yummies T-shirts.
“If I were to own any business, this would be the one I’d own.”
Yummies is open seven-days-a-week – from noon to 9 p.m. in the dining area and until 9:30 at the drive-thru – through the Friday after Columbus Day (October).
For more information visit http://www.yummiesicecream.com/ or call (585) 786-0430.