New ice cream shop opens in Columbia
Darryl Hebel of Millstadt, a former chemical engineer, never imagined himself opening an ice cream shop.
However, on May 22, he found himself cutting the ribbon at the grand opening of his own store: Marie’s Ice Cream Shoppe in Columbia.
Though the grand opening day was just a few weeks ago, the shop has been open for about seven weeks, during which Hebel said business has been great.
“Everything’s been going very well,” he said. “We’ve been very busy.”
Hebel worked in the chemical industry for more than 20 years but sustained an injury that caused him to quit.
“I had to find another job and decided to take a stab at this,” he said.
Living in Millstadt, Hebel said he always drives by the beloved Happy Days Ice Cream Shop in the heart of town.
“I always saw so many people going in there, and everyone always enjoyed it, so I thought I should do it,” Hebel said.
One of the things that makes his shop, located inside what was once a Baskin-Robbins at 1220 Columbia Centre, unique is the variety in types and kinds of ice cream.
“We don’t have just your plain soft serve ice cream,” he said. “We have the old-fashioned, hand-scooped ice cream as well. We carry about 16 to 18 different flavors.”
They are one of the few places in the St. Louis area that carries Cedar Crest ice cream from Wisconsin.
“I did some research and found (Cedar Crest),” he said. “It’s not available in stores around here, so it’s perfect to offer in the shop.”
So far, feedback has been positive and supportive, Hebel said.
“People have been so great about welcoming us to the area,” he said.
This week, the shop began a new tradition called family nights, which will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays in June.
“We’ll have a balloon twister up here,” Hebel said. “He does some incredible art. If it goes over well, we’ll continue into July.”
His hopes are to be successful and get as much exposure as he can for the shop and plans to start a “call in, carry out” function where customers can call in larger ice cream orders and have them ready to be picked up.
The most popular flavor and best-seller so far has been “Pirate’s Booty,” which contains M&M’s and chocolate sandwich cookies in caramel-flavored ice cream. Their coconut ice cream has also been selling well.
Walking in, the smell of freshly baked waffle cones hits the customer instantly, and the color scheme goes along perfectly with the shop in the colors of Neapolitan ice cream.
“The waffle cones really give such a fresh, warm scent,” Hebel said.
The name of the store came from Hebel’s daughter, whose middle name is Marie. His two kids work in the shop for him as well, which he said is a lot of fun.
“It’s a fun atmosphere and I get to see them more,” he said.
Though he is new to the business, Hebel said he is constantly looking for ways to improve and better the shop.
“This is my first time doing this and I’m always trying to improve,” Hebel said. “We’re bringing in fountain soda in a few weeks, so we’ll have ice cream soda. We’re tweaking here and there all the time.”
Hebel began setting up the store in November, so planning and getting the store ready for opening took about six months.
“We’re always expanding our menu,” he said. “We have concretes, shakes, malts, banana splits and sundaes.”
Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.