5 Traits of a Successful Ice Cream Shop- an Interview with Louis Coletta of Tony’s Ice Cream

Listen to the Full Interview Here

[length: 47 min – 65 MB]

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When we heard of Tony’s Ice Cream, an ice cream shop that has been In business for 98 years, we knew they would have some tips to starting and running a successful ice cream business. We interviewed Louis Coletta, owner of Tony’s Ice Cream located in Gastonia, North Carolina.

Tony’s Ice Cream dates back to 1915 when it was started by Louis’s grandfather from Italy. Carmine Coletta began selling ice cream with an ice cream cart, then upgraded to a horse and carriage, selling his ice cream door to door. Louis’s father took over the business and updated the business to include ice cream trucks as well as an ice cream shop.

How Has Tony’s Ice Cream Remained Successful for 98 Years?

1. A great business owner is one who is passionate about their business and their product. Louis became a natural when he started helping with the store at the age of 11 years old. Tony’s Ice Cream has been so successful for all these years due to the pride and dedication its owners have in their family business.

2. Another reason Tony’s Ice Cream remains successful is the goal to always be the leader in ice cream in Gaston County. The owners realize there is a lot of competition with the larger companies and franchises, and they commit to setting their shop apart from the rest in the area. In an effort to keep the presence in the county, Tony’s Ice Cream now sells their product wholesale.

3. Louis mentioned the key to success is to constantly be looking to improve the equipment and product. This is the foundation of the business and what separates the independent ice cream shops from the large companies. This includes upgrading freezer space- Louis says “It’s not about how much you can make, it’s about how much you can freeze.”

Tony’s Ice Cream continues to attract customers due to their quality ice cream. Over the years they have remained dedicated to providing top quality ice cream that beats the competition. They continuously experiment with flavors to offer their customers a variety and to keep up with trends.

4. One of the most important lessons learned during this interview is to be successful you can never give up. Business owners need to always be looking for a way to improve, or even just sustain their business especially when trying to make it through a tough economy. Some examples of how Tony’s Ice Cream has made it this far are:

  • Working with buying groups that help the small businesses have more buying power.
  • Partnering with other companies where they can co-market and save money.
  • Reaching out to distributors who will sell their ice cream wholesale.

5. Lastly, Louis gave great tips on creating longevity with employees. Tony’s Ice Cream hires employees to be a part of the company for a long time. The key to having long-term employees is to have an open and honest relationship. Louis also suggests managing employees the same way you would want to be treated. “Management is helping people, not just telling people what to do” said Louis.

We like to ask our interviewees what advice they have for those looking to get into the ice cream business. Louis suggested the most important tip is to do your research, especially when it comes to location. He stressed that running an ice cream shop is a big commitment, you can’t just leave or take vacation when you want to.

We hope you enjoy this interview and can learn from these keys to success!

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