Your Favorite Summer Treat, Without the Guilt

Your Favorite Summer Treat, Without the Guilt
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Why you should care

Because you can help change the world, one sweet scoop at a time. 

OZY and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have partnered to bring you an inside look at how entrepreneurs and their good business are helping the communities around them. Enjoy the rest of our special series here.

If indulging in a sweet ice cream treat leaves you feeling guilty, we’ve got news for you: You likely haven’t visited the right shop. Sprinkled across the U.S., some ice cream parlors are dishing out more than just gelato. They’re also serving up social good.

In Dallas, for example, Howdy Homemade is dedicated to employing individuals with special needs. At Denver’s Little Man Ice Cream, the store donates a scoop of rice or beans to communities in need with each ice cream scoop purchased. There’s even a spot where you can get a pint of ice cream in exchange for donating blood.

Tom Landis, owner of Howdy Homemade, says the idea to create an ice cream shop that would provide a nurturing environment for employees with special needs came to him after a bout of reading. He had just finished the biography of retired NFL player Gene Stallings, Another Season: A Coach’s Story of Raising an Exceptional Son, in which Stallings wrote about the challenges his son, who has Down syndrome, faced every day.

It was a risky idea that investors weren’t willing to bet on.

Tom Landis, Howdy Handmade

“It just jumped out at me when I was reading his book: Let’s design an entire restaurant around helping people with special needs,” he says. Even though Landis already operated two successful franchises of cheesesteak chain Texadelphia, he struggled to get funding for Howdy Homemade.

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Source Courtesy Howdy Homemade

“It was a risky idea that investors weren’t willing to bet on,” he says. That’s until JPMorgan Chase & Co. jumped in with a $25,000 loan. Today, 14 special-needs employees help run the shop, and there’s been zero percent turnover since the store launched a year and a half ago. Besides social good, the ice cream shop’s other claim to fame is its coveted Dr. Pepper chocolate chip ice cream flavor, which accounts for 60 percent of the store’s sales.

Other ice cream parlors are serving up innovative ways to help end world hunger. Little Man Ice Cream has donated nearly 2 million scoops of rice and beans as part of its Scoop for Scoop program. The shop, which was founded in 2008, also has donated more than $100,000 to various global efforts, such as hunger relief, medical and dental care, and provided safe homes for victims of sex trafficking in Cambodia. The ice cream shop has hosted blood drives, gifting participants a pint of ice cream in exchange for donating a pint of blood. “As a community centerpiece, we celebrate the difference that everybody can make and want everyone to feel involved,” says Dominic DiCarlantonio, general manager of Little Man Ice Cream. “Anyone who has ever bought our ice cream has made an impact on those 2 million scoops.”

For the tree-hugging, ice cream-loving crowd, Lick’s Ice Cream, in Wendell, North Carolina, sources products from local dairy farm Homeland Creamery, which uses environmentally sustainable farming processes. And along with its eco-friendly efforts, the ice cream shop hosts “Thank You Thursdays,” honoring the military and first responders with a 10 percent discount. Meanwhile, Baskin-Robbins locations nationwide donate 11 cents of every scoop sold on Veterans Day to the United Service Organizations.

So next time you’re looking to kick back and enjoy a scoop, look for a local ice cream joint with a conscience, because practicing social good can taste good too.