Austin Profiles: Amys Ice Cream

Austin prides itself on many things, and having independent retailers around town would be one. Amy’s Ice Cream got its start in Austin back in 1984, and currently is one of Austin’s pride and joys.

Amy Simmons got the ice cream bug while attending college at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. She was majoring in Pre-Med and working for Steve’s Ice Cream shop, and ended up putting off medical school to help the ice cream business grow. Steve’s ended up being bought out by another company, and Amy decided to start her own ice cream business, and chose Austin after reading about the high-tech boom in the Economist. She talked to a slew of local businesses, such as Chuy’s and Texas French Bread, and the decision was final. Amy moved to town, wrote a hot check for the lease of the original Amy’s Ice Cream location on Guadalupe, and a new Austin legacy was born.

Though Amy’s Ice Cream started with one location, 24 years later, there are 14 stores, including one in Houston and one in San Antonio. In Amy’s first year of business, 125,000 servings of ice cream were sold, and today well over one million are sold, with gross sales topping $5 million. Amy’s has also reached out into the wholesale business, and supplies her frozen treats to over 50 restaurants around town.

Since the business has grown so large recently, Amy Simmons built a new factory on Burnet Road, converting the old Allandale post office into energy-efficient new headquarters. The old factory made 200,000 gallons of ice cream a year, while this factory doubles that amount. Amy, along with Michael Hsu of Dick Clark Architecture, designed the new factory from scratch, and also transformed a neighboring 1940s Sinclair Gas Station into a new Amy’s location, and a casual dining restaurant called Phil’s Ice House. The residents of the Allandale neighborhood couldn’t be more excited about the new Amy’s factory and the transformation of their old neighborhood structures, which features a giant playground for kids, and shows movies outside on warm, Texas nights.

One of Amy’s Ice Creams stand out features, besides their fabulous and daring flavors like Shiner Bock ice cream, is their employees. These creative souls seem to always be in a great mood, and have no fear flinging scoops of ice cream around the store, and catching them in cups balanced on their chins. Though some have moved on to more prosperous full-time careers, there are those employees that don’t want to leave Amy’s, and will do both. The new Phil’s Ice House is a memorial to Phillip Clay, who worked for Amy’s for 17 years, giving tours through the Amy’s factory to kids, before dying in a motorcycle accident. All potential employees fill out an application- a white paper bag that must be brought back with information about themselves, assuring only the most creative souls get a shot at scooping ice cream. Amy admits it wasn’t always this way, but she handed a sack to one girl when she’d run out of applications. The applicant floated the bag back into the store, suspended by a helium balloon with the sack stuffed full of items about herself.

In 2004, when Amy’s had its 20 year anniversary, the company held a carnival open to the public to help benefit the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, and also handed out free ice cream to all customers at each Austin store for six and half hours on November 1st. Amy’s also donates gift certificates to any educational, non-profit, or children’s charity, and turns none away. Amy Simmons is not striving to become a mega company with many stores, and doesn’t plan on opening any outside of Texas, concentrating her tasty endeavors here in Austin.

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About The Author, Dane Smith
Ki Gray is a broker in Austin real estate. His website offers local information and statistics on the Austin real estate blog as well as a helpful Austin MLS search.