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Keeping ice cream in the family

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SHOP: Kelly’s Ice Cream shop is only open for the spring and summer, from March to September.
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ICE CREAM: Randy Kelly in his ice cream shop, Kelly’s Ice Cream.

by ANDREW CHRISTMAN - achristman@wabashplaindealer.com

In 1984, the same year National Ice Cream Day and National Ice Cream Month were proclaimed by then-President Ronald Reagan, Kelly’s Ice Cream owner Randy Kelly’s wife Elise and her friend had been on a walk and were craving ice cream with nowhere close to go.

Within the next year, the couple purchased the lot on the corner of Vermont and Stitt Street, where they established their new store.

“This used to be the old Highway 24, and there wasn’t a new highway when I was here. This was our main drag,” Randy said. “We had Hank’s Drive-In down the road and GenCorp down the street, so you can imagine the 600-800 employees that would come by every day.”

Being in business for 33 years, Randy says the seasonal ice cream shop has stayed afloat through loyal customers. In fact, business had been strong enough to warrant expanding to a second location in Greentown.

But the best thing about owning the shop, Randy said, is that it’s all about the kids.

“I’ve had hundreds of kids working for me over the years. I’ve got families that come up to my window now, and the kind of neat thing is the kids that used to work here have little kids now,” Randy said. “I’m really happy for my employees to better themselves.”

Among the kids raised in the shop were Randy’s own children, Aaron and Brennan, quite literally in some cases as both boys had a playpen in the back of the shop when they were younger. Brennan still comes back to work summers when he is off from college.

Also keeping the business in the family is Elise, who Randy credits with keeping the business afloat.

While Kelly’s Ice Cream has more competition these days from when it opened in 1985, Randy said it has helped overall. A draw for the shop is offering a variety of flavors for both hard and soft ice cream, with Randy saying the butter pecan and superman flavors are crowd favorites.