Ice cream shop has family flavor

Business: Since 1947, Hoffman's Homemade Ice Cream has served sweet treats in Westminster.

April 24, 2005|By Katie Martin | Katie Martin,SUN STAFF

Jeff Hoffman spooned sticky butterscotch from a pitcher into a plastic gallon container filled with vanilla ice cream.

He closed the container and took it to a walk-in freezer where he placed it on a shelf next to rows of other pints, cartons and buckets of ice cream.

Butterscotch ripple is one of about 50 ice cream flavors Hoffman can make.

Hoffman, 49, of Finksburg is one of the co-owners of Hoffman's Homemade Ice Cream on Washington Road in Westminster.

He and his two sisters are the third generation of the family to own the shop that has treated Carroll County residents and visitors to homemade ice cream since opening 58 years ago.

Sometimes in the summer, the line goes from the ice cream shop over to the deli side of the store and wraps around the aisles, Hoffman said.

Hoffman's grandparents, Jesse and Evelyn Hoffman, started the business in 1947. Their sons, Robert and Richard, took over in the mid-1950s.

Jeff's father, Robert Hoffman, said that a few years after the store opened, he started driving an ice cream truck for his father. The truck circled the streets of Westminster, selling ice cream cones, flavored ice, pints and quarts.

There is a photo of the truck on a wall on the deli side of the shop, next to numerous photos of several generations of the Hoffman family. It depicts Robert Hoffman handing an ice cream cone out the open door to a child in a diaper, barely as tall as the truck's front wheel.

That child is Cary Myers, now the owner of Myers 140 Photo in Westminster. Myers said he remembers when the truck came down North Colonial Avenue where he lived with his family.

"It was always exciting because it was homemade ice cream, and I guess I've always gone there since then," Myers said. He said he gets ice cream from Hoffman's at least every other week and usually twice a week in the summer.

Robert Hoffman said that after his family stopped running the truck in the 1960s, the convenience store and deli were added next to the ice cream shop.

His children started working there when they were about 12 years old, he said.

"Their first job was putting ice cream sandwiches in bags," Hoffman said. "We cut up blocks of ice cream, and my wife would cut the cookies and they would put them in the bags."

He said when they turned 14, they started working in the store and dipping ice cream.

Linda Crabbs, one of his daughters, said she has worked in the store as long as she can remember.

"When you grow up in a family business, it's not really like a job, it's just your life," said Crabbs, 46, of Westminster. Robert Hoffman passed the store on to his children five years ago.

Lori Shamer, Robert Hoffman's other daughter, said part of the reason the business is successful is because it has remained in the family. Several fourth-generation members of the family also work in the store.

"It has to do with family pride. ... The three of us can't imagine doing anything else," she said.

Shamer said her favorite flavor of ice cream is chocolate peanut butter. Even when she's on a strict diet, she has to eat at least a teaspoon.

Jeff Hoffman said the store usually has about 30 different flavors of ice cream in stock. Patrons can choose from flavors including black cherry, strawberry cheesecake and tin roof.

Unusual flavors

Hoffman's also features unusual flavors around certain holidays, such as pumpkin in the fall and peppermint in the winter.

Some of the flavors have been passed down through the family, while others are altered suggestions from the flavor companies, Hoffman said. He said, for example, Hoffman's has the standard favorite chocolate chip, but it also offers coconut chocolate chip, mint chocolate chip and chocolate chip cookie dough.

"The possibilities are just endless," Hoffman said. "You could make hundreds of different kinds of ice cream."

Each flavor begins as a mix - made of milk, cream and sugar - that comes from a dairy in Pennsylvania. The mixture is poured into either a five- or 10-gallon batch freezer that whips in air.

Jeff Hoffman said he can judge from experience when the ice cream is the right consistency and ready to be packaged and frozen.

The five-gallon batch freezer Hoffman used to make the butterscotch ripple was purchased in 1969. Today, the machine would cost about $20,000, he said.

Hoffman's also offers several kinds of sherbets, but Hoffman noted that sherbet might not be healthier. It is lower in fat, but not in sugar, he said.

Besides having homemade ice cream, Hoffman's also has milkshakes and ice cream cakes.

Shamer said that most people don't realize how much time it takes to make an ice cream cake. She usually oversees the three-day process, which begins by freezing layers of vanilla ice cream, a crunchy filling and chocolate ice cream into different size molds. The cakes are removed from the molds and iced the next day and then are decorated on the third day.

Jeff Hoffman said they usually sell 200 to 300 cakes a week.

Loyal clientele

Robert Hoffman said people keep coming back after 50 years because they like the product.

"We started out with a small operation here ... and the business kept growing and satisfaction made us do well, right there in our hometown," Hoffman said.

The store's reputation goes beyond the state border.

"One day I was ordering some supplies from an outfit in Chicago," said Robert Hoffman. "The woman answered the phone, and I gave her the name and address, and she said `Oh, I've been to your store.'"

Myers said Hoffman's is always busy in the summertime.

"It's nice though. It's the hometown thing," he said. "It's still a part of the old local `Hey, how are you doing?' kind of thing."

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