When a batch of 3,000 spoons meant to last you two or three months is gone in less than a week, you’re in a preferable predicament if your business’s name has creamery in it and deals in ice cream and frozen yogurt.
This is one of those “good problems” to have for Chris Jones, owner of Dexter Creamery, which is the latest addition to Dexter’s downtown district. The Creamery essentially “creamed” Jones’ expectations when a horde of Dexterites huddled at the door on opening day. The voracious mob was insatiable.
Between 5 and 11 p.m. 750 cups of the Creamery’s finest walked out the door in as many bellies all for no more than $3.99 per cup, since the price is capped at $3.99 no matter how heavy the weight or numerous the toppings.
“They’re hard to get; they take two or three weeks to arrive,” Jones said of his depleted spoon supply with a look of excitement and pride, understanding the positive implications.
According to the statistics derived from sales records, 10 percent of customers that came in for the opening Friday returned the next day Saturday. Of those who came Saturday, 18 percent returned Sunday. A whopping 22 percent of Sunday’s customers were there the next day on Monday.
With these sorts of success indicators apparent in less than a month’s time, Jones said he feels like he’s got a strong shot at making Dexter Creamery a leading family-friendly downtown hangout, even going so far as to focus on providing a secure space for Dexter’s older teenagers and younger college kids who want to experience Dexter after dark. The Creamery is opened until 11 p.m.
“Our goal for this place is to make it a community hub,” he explained. “We’d like to have events in here during the winter time to keep the children occupied with something to do, since there’s not a whole lot of places for older kids to go, especially at night. Hopefully we can be a place they can go that is happy and wholesome where they can socialize.”
There are also plans to have a reading program where parents set reading goals for their children and meeting those goals earns free yogurt cups. Game nights featuring family favorites like Jenga are also on the table for consideration.
“I feel a strong desire and obligation to be a member of this community and a good role model to the community’s kids, and ultimately have this place be a destination where parents feel like it’s a healthy, safe, and happy place for their kids to be,” Jones said.
One thing leads to another
Jones says he’s thankful for all of the little coincidences that may have caused him to end up running a business like the Creamery in a town like Dexter.
Last August, Jones and his wife Janine were cruising through town when they saw the former Nichols & Stafford building at 8106 Main Street vacant with a for lease sign out front. Immediately recognizing the potential of the location, Jones dialed up building owners Fred and Judy Model to inquire about the space.
“My wife and I had been talking about it for a long time that we’d like to open something here in Dexter and (the Models) were open to the idea immediately,” Jones said.
Shortly after that phone call the Jones family took a pre-planned trip to Tennessee for their yearly vacation on a house boat that’s a summer tradition. While on the water Chris received a tip that an ice cream shop in Kentucky had gone belly up and the owner was selling the remaining equipment.
“Next thing I know I’m renting a Ryder truck and driving all of this equipment from Kentucky up to Michigan … and I started working on our space here within the same month and have been going nonstop since we opened,” Jones said.
The building needed a lot of work, most of which Chris did with some help from friends and family. From redoing the second floor area into an office from which he runs his other company Intuitive Technology to sanding every brick in the walls on the main level where the Creamery operates, Jones pridefully deemed the physical spaces for his two companies a “labor of love,” which can sometimes seem like a cliché expression.
But in this case it’s hard to think of a better way to put it.
“I’ve invested a lot of my heart and soul into this building, every bit of electrical has been replaced, we redid all the plumbing, and we were very careful with the restoration work,” Jones said. “For example, the original molding is behind the brick, so we maintained a lot of the original infrastructure as much as we could. There are old doors behind the walls, so somebody else is going to have the experience one day if they tear down my walls to see all of that old stuff that’s in there.”
Jones also likes to show off old crates and furniture from the building’s days as a pharmacy many years ago, as well as date inscriptions on the stairs going down made by each subsequent tenant that came before him.
A family of many hats
Between Chris and Janine, there are now two companies, a nursing career, multiple children including a one and three-year-old, and a passion for outreach work in Haiti through their involvement in a group of eight other friends that goes by the moniker Partner in Haiti, which involves the Jones family and friends flying to the impoverished, misfortune-ravaged country with nearly 400 pounds per trip of modern medicine, which is sadly a very rare thing there.
“It’s really great,” Jones said. “When we arrive they’re so happy to see us and we’re happy to see what we bring get into the hands of those who need it most.”
The Jones family has made a lot of personal connections in Haiti after so many years of leading medical missions there; in fact, one might say they’re a part of the Haitian community by this point with many friendships so rich and bonds so strong that they probably rival the connections between most people who are blood related.
“We’ve got some very close relationships down there that are probably very close to being like family,” Jones said. “My wife and I even got married by a Haitian priest on a farm that one of our group members owns. This has been our outlet for many years.”
While the Jones family waits for their littlest ones to grow up enough for them to resume their Haitian trips, they are focused on their family, Janine is focused on helping with the Creamery and being a nurse, and Chris is focused on his companies. With the Creamery, Jones says that’s going to be his number one outlet for the time being. He’s determined to be a positive influence in Dexter and realize his ideals of contributing to the community in which he lives to the fullest extent.
“The thing about ice cream is that it’s a social activity; it’s not just a dessert, Jones explained. “We wanted to provide the entire experience for that activity. We want this to be a place for people coming off of (the Border-to-Border Trail) to either sit down or take a popsicle into town. With this we’re going to contribute something positive to our community.”
This summer the Jones family will celebrate five years in Dexter. They hope that over the next five years they’re known for the good that the Dexter Creamery has done in Dexter through how it has touched the individual lives of their friends and neighbors.
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