Two years ago, Kristy Carleton purchased a small, vintage camper trailer with the idea of retrofitting it into a mobile ice cream parlour. She purchased some equipment and prepared a business plan. There was a change in plans when the space adjacent to Boo-Bah-Lou Candy Corner in Kagawong became available and on June 30, Ms. Carleton celebrated the grand opening of Buttercup Ice Creamery.
“It was a really good fit,” Ms. Carleton said. “People were already coming to this location. Now they get the candy they can take home and the ice cream they can eat here, and it really works well.”
There’s a vintage feel to the shop. It's bright and colorful and just feels fun. Even the name sounds retro. The young staff is well trained and ready to serve with a smile. “They’re all teenagers who live in Kagawong and they’re all fantastic,” Ms. Carleton said.
A staff orientation day was held the day before opening, so they were familiar with operation of the equipment. The few glitches that occurred early in the day were ironed out quickly. “Everything went smoothly and staff were fantastic,” she added. “They jumped in and did their jobs really well. I really lucked out.”
Ms. Carleton formerly owned and operated the Former Flame consignment shop in Gore Bay for seven plus years. That closed in 2019 and Ms. Carleton spent the last three years working at Split Rail Brewery. She misses her store and has no complaints about her time at the brewery. “It was a great place to work,” she said. “It was a very graceful exit, just to jump straight into this.”
For the most part, though, Ms. Carleton has worked on her own and wanted to get back into self-employment. She has experience in the food sector also. Living in Sudbury, she gained experience in restaurant management and catering. It was an easy slide into the ice creamery. “Food service is food service,” she said.
There is a variety of ice cream flavours available from several dairies, including Chapman’s, Nielson and the London Ice Cream Company. Ms. Carleton is leaning towards more premium brands and after things slow down in the fall, she has plans to purchase a batch ice cream freezer so she can start churning her own ice cream in-house.
“That was the plan originally but things happened so quickly, I just couldn’t get everything lined up,” she said. She’ll be attending the ice cream scientist course at Guelph University in December to get some hands-on experience, spending the rest of the winter honing the recipes for next spring or early summer.
Buttercup Ice Creamery will remain open all year, although with some scaling back on the frozen desserts in the winter. “I’ll have a few things available but shift the menu a bit,” Ms. Carleton explained. “Maybe shift more into hot foods, like apple pie with ice cream.”
Her research has shown that for some places, winter is the busiest season for ice cream. “I’m kind of curious to see how it will work out here. If I have it available, will it stay popular?” she said.
When things slow down on the front line, she’ll offer more specialty items, such as ice cream cakes and ice cream sandwiches to go, and plans to offer special orders for birthdays and special events.
In addition to hard and soft-serve ice cream, Buttercup offers milkshakes, floats, sundaes, Farquhar’s lemonade and a house specialty iced coffee float. It’s hard to tell if there’s a customer favourite so far, although she can’t keep up when it comes to chocolate ice cream. “Which is funny to me, because I’m not even a chocolate ice cream person,” she said. “That seems to be the biggest thing moving. We’re doing a ton of milkshakes and sundaes are actually one of the hottest items on the menu.”
There is an unusual item on the menu: taiyaki. It’s a special waffle cone in the shape of a fish with its mouth wide open. “It’s like a Belgian waffle,” she explained. “You put the ice cream in the little mouth and decorate it all pretty.” It’s not available at this time but will stay on the menu and will hopefully be available in the next week or two.
The shop is a testament to the handywoman skills of Ms. Carleton, her friend Lisa and her sister Keri. “We built everything here from scratch: all the counters, the cabinetry, the front facing. We constructed everything,” she said.
“I had a team of really skilled women. We hammered through. We even built the kitchenette in the back,” she added. “All we did was have the electrician and the plumber come in and connect things, but everything was really all put together.”
It’s nice to see the growing food culture here, said Ms. Carleton. “There’s a lot of really motivated people coming and filling that space. Collaborations like Split Rail working with New Grain. Then there’s Three Forks Farm and Nic’s Farm and Vineyard. There’s a lot of really great projects happening here.”
She would like to work on some collaborations once she’s established, and still hopes to get that little trailer hooked up so she can attend events as a pop-up. “Originally when I wanted to do the trailer, I was looking at that really cute retro style and cater to weddings,” she said. The trailer would make a good photo feature as well.
Buttercup Ice Creamery is located at 67 Main Street in Kagawong, beside Boo-Bah-Lou Candy Corner. Find them on Facebook or give them a call at 705-210-9710. Hours are 12 pm to 7 pm, open daily.
Lori Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Manitoulin Expositor