A Day in the Life of…An Ice Cream Store Owner
How did a med-school bound college student become a Texan ice cream entrepreneur?
Ice cream makes people happy, that's one big reason why Amy Simmons loves her job. Below she shares how Amy’s Ice Creams stores were born, and her best tips to savor the flavor of ice cream while being healthy, too.
Weightwatchers.com: How did you end up in the ice cream business?
Amy Simmons: I was premed at college. I wanted to go to medical school so I did research on cancer and fetal alcohol syndrome during that time. I worked alone and I’m real gregarious so that didn’t fulfill my needs.
During college, I also worked in an ice cream store. And that was paradise.
AS: Coming into an ice cream store is a release. People leave the store happy. People share experiences with friends, families and first dates. I realized it’s the experiences in life that you share with people that matter.
WW.com: Your first store opened in 1984. How many stores do you have now?
AS: Fourteen – all in Texas. And we opened a burger place in 2005.
WW.com: How many flavors do you sell?
AS: Fifteen flavors at any one time. But we make over 300 flavors. There are eight standards and the others rotate in.
WW.com: What’s your best seller?
AS: Mexican vanilla. It’s 30 percent of sales. It’s a really rich vanilla made with Mexican vanilla beans.
WW.com: What’s your favorite flavor?
AS: Belgian chocolate with Reese’s® peanut butter cups crushed in.
WW.com: Mmmm. What are some of your offbeat ice creams?
AS: We make five beer flavors. Guinness is the most popular among them. But Shiner beer is also super popular. Grannies loves them!
There’s a small niche market for these flavors but they do work. Some of our other esoteric flavors include:
- peanut butter-chipotle
- Mexican vanilla with cinnamon and cayenne (a souped-up version of the best-seller)
WW.com: Do you offer a light ice cream?
AS: There is demand for light products, but they’re just not as good as the regular ones. We tried it but we were compromising the product that we’re known for. We do have one option, but it’s really for our diabetic customers.
WW.com: So what do the health conscious do?
AS: We have lots of customers on “ice cream diets.” One time per week, they substitute ice cream for a meal.
WW.com: How do you stay fit working in an ice cream lover’s haven?
AS: I taste the ice cream, and I do eat some full cones. For me, personally, it’s just balance.
WW.com: Does that mean you work out?
AS: Yes, I aim to work out five days a week. I’ve always been athletic. I used to row, do triathlons and marathons (and I sometimes still do). But someone told me that you’ve never really worked out until you’ve boxed, so I tried it once. It’s so hard to keep your hands up there for two minutes. I had no idea how much it would take out of you. It is such a mental sport.
WW.com: And you were hooked?
AS: Yes, my opponent and I were the first professional female boxers in the state of Texas.
WW.com: At job interviews for your company, you give prospective employees a plain paper bag and tell them to create something with it. What else makes your business unique?
AS: We put tremendous energy into our customer service in the stores, and we have tremendous customer service training. We have a training camp for new employees. I tell my employees that their job is “to make the customer’s day.” Other buzz words we have are “human moments.” Even if they just sample the ice cream and leave, our aim is to make people happy.
WW.com: Any wise words for our weight-loss-focused readers?
AS: I have three kids. I’m a busy lady. The balance is hard; it’s not easy. But there’s a time for everything in life. Don’t beat yourself up. Life is a long journey.