It’s nice to get a good news story once in awhile, and what could be better than one involving indulging a minor vice resulting in good for the world. I once reported on Save The World Brewery, a beer company run by a former minister which puts its profits back into community charities. Well, if beer’s not your thing but a sweet tooth is, there’s Howdy Homemade Ice Cream.
Howdy is a Texas-based chain of ice cream shops staffed by people with intellectual or developmental difficulties. Seemingly a large portion of the workforce have Down Syndrome; others have Autism, and any number of similar afflictions. The company was started by Tom Landis, a Dallas-area businessman who was inspired by Gene Stallings, a celebrated football coach (he was running the 1992 Alabama Crimson Tide which went undefeated that year and were National Champions) who won acclaim as well for writing about his son John who had Down Syndrome. Stallings went on to be an advisor to President George W. Bush on Intellectual Disabilities, believing firmly that people like his son could do far more than most people would give them credit for.
Landis started the ice cream business with the idea of a “relentless pursuit to crreate jos for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through the power of our smiles and amazing ice cream.” He feels such people are “marginalized because of society’s misunderstandings.” So he opened his shop and hired people most places wouldn’t consider. It was a hit, and now he’s got shops in Katy (a Houston suburb) and Asheville, NC with plans to open ones in Las Cruces, NM, Delaware and Syracuse, NY soon.
They offer occasional seasonal specials plus 18 regular flavors… “regular” being a bit inappropriate perhaps since things like Cold Brew, Dr. Pepper and Avocado aren’t everyday choices everywhere. Of course they also have Butter Pecan, Chocolate (“As all get out!”) and, yes, vanilla. They’re available for catering weddings complete with cakes (ice cream I presume) as well.
The chain was showcased recently on ABC News and has been featured by NBC’s Today Show and the Dallas Morning News among other media sites. They’ve taken the next step in their business as well, offering Howdy Ice Cream for sale in tubs at 100 HEB supermarkets in Texas. Each container has the photo of one of the workers gaining experience and dignity working for them.
Reviews are generally good. Yelp averages 4.5-stars out of 5; Trip Advisor 5 out of 5. Complaints, while infrequent suggest the portions are too small …which I guess is the mark of a good dessert!
I must admit that I’ve never seen their product in my local supermarket and haven’t given it a go. As well, their website is a little sparse on details such as where they source their ice cream (do they make the supermarket batch themselves or merely re-label and existing product, for instance) and number of people working for them, but that doesn’t leave too much of a bitter taste when we’re dealing with quality ice cream and jobs for people who need a little boost.
So, if you’re in the Lone Star State (or soon, elsewhere) and get a hankering for a cold treat on a hot day, why not say “Howdy” to a most unusual – and most admirable – ice cream and the happy faces that serve it up.