At 21, Austin Owens is the young, dynamic ice cream baron of Terrace, where he runs the Chill Soda Shop (CSS) with his two younger brothers, Caiden and Collin.
The ice cream shop situated along Hwy16, overlooking the rail line running through Terrace, is the perfect place for children and adults to enjoy a high-quality, global, sugar-rush through a wide selection of confectioneries.
Owens, who is back in town on break from university, takes you through a carefully curated collection of colourful candies, chips, and beverages ordered from over 40 suppliers across the world.
Among them are the “super hard to find” pack of M&M’s Hubba Bubba Bubblegum from Australia, green tea/ matcha flavoured Oreo cookies from Japan, flavour-changing chips from Thailand, special edition Red Bull from China, and exclusive KitKat flavours from Dubai.
“We’re a hardcore ice cream store but we’re trying to run a bodega-style niche shop that sells stuff from all over the world,” Owens says.
Between his studies, managing the ice cream shop and his job at a local daycare in town, he spends a significant amount of time researching unique products around the globe.
Born and raised in Terrace, Owens grew up enjoying sports and mountain biking. As a young adult, much like others his age, he enjoys rugby and attending music festivals in his spare time.
After attending Brentwood College School on Vancouver Island, Owens is currently pursuing a double major in marketing and management with a minor in psychology at university in Edmonton.
His mother, Jennifer Maillet, who owned Willow Creek Childcare (now run by Coast Mountain Children’s Society) and Willow Creek Nursing was a major influence on his entrepreneurial outlook.
The boys were encouraged to take on the ice cream shop business at a young age by Maillet as a learning experience.
Sure enough, he says the experience has been “beyond helpful,” when it comes to better understanding business and engaging more in his university courses.
Owen was 16 when he and his younger brothers started managing CSS after they bought the shop from its previous owners. They went on to establish a presence in the city with pop-ups in the park and on Riverboat Days.
He’s famous among children and adults who call him the “ice cream dude.”
“Kids really put that image to my name,” Owens says.
He goes on to say that the best part about this job is seeing the expressions and shock on people’s faces when they see the products in the store. Adding, the business is not necessarily about making a huge profit.
“We use the money to pay for our schooling and rent and the rest is put back into the business,” he says. They also like to support the community and donate money towards hockey and dance initiatives that they are passionate about.
He explains running the shop is not just about scooping out ice cream or managing the inventory, it’s also about listening to what people want. That attitude also helps him with the selection of unique products for his store.
Owens says starting off as a young entrepreneur built him as a person.
“I felt the pressure, learned from the community and the clientele and learned how to better assist them, ” he says.
“I really enjoy what I do,” he says, adding, “the experiences I had here at the shop changed my life drastically.”
Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Terrace Standard