My family and I just spent our Spring Break with our best friends on the panhandle of Florida.  Locals call this area of Florida the “Redneck Riviera”.  However, there is nothing “redneck” about the place we stayed at – Rosemary Beach is as quaint and charming as towns come.

Eight nights.  Seven great dinners. Grouper prepared every which way –  broiled, fried, baked, grilled and pan seared. Six sunny days on the beach. Kickball, bike rides, playing UNO and binge watching reruns of “24” while sipping bourbon after the kids went down. And the best (and worst) part of the week – ice cream EVERY DAY!

My family takes ice cream pretty seriously. It is a contact sport in my home.  I try not to make too many promises during family vacations, but ice cream every day is a Spaulding tradition.  When we are on holiday together one of the first things we do……find a local creamery.  After mastering this tradition for over a decade, we’ve learned that there is a significant difference between an “ice cream shop” and a “local creamery”.  Ice cream shops usually serve store bought brands like Edy’s, Dreyers, Breyers and Blue Bunny.  Creameries, on the other hand, do one thing and one thing extremely well – make fresh homemade ice cream.

On our first night after dinner we visited the local ice cream shop called the Sugar Shack.  Other than the two days of monsoon rain, this ice cream shop was the biggest disappointment of the week – store bought ice cream, stale candy and high school aged servers who obviously hated their jobs.

The next day my wife and I went on a sixteen-mile bike ride visiting all the nearby towns along the shoreline.  Every ice cream shop we passed, I hopped off my bike hoping to find homemade ice cream.  Much to my surprise, every shop served only store bought brands. We finally asked some locals where to find local homemade ice cream.  Everyone said the same thing, “About a 20-minute drive up 30A, you’ll find Blue Mountain Creamery on the left side – the only creamery in the area – and the best there is.”  That night we made the 20-minute drive.

When we pulled up to Blue Mountain Creamery, it was packed and the line was long – really long.  The last time I stood in a line that long was for Bruce Springsteen tickets. Boy was it worth it! Great customer service.  Friendly staff. Unique flavors. And as homemade as homemade ice cream comes.  Double scoops for all!

Our next visit to Blue Mountain Creamery we waited in line in the pouring rain. It took 45 minutes to drive back home – still worth every minute. I was told rain or shine, seven days a week, that place is always packed.  Why?  Because folks want the real deal. They want homemade.  They want great customer service.

I couldn’t help but think about this question: Is your business a store bought ice cream shop or a homemade creamery? Whatever product you sell or service you provide, I believe your customers and clients want the same thing.  They want the real deal.  They want great customer service.  They want authentic ingredients. They want a unique experience.  They want to feel special. They want to feel valued. They want to give their business to people that obviously love their jobs.  And they will drive 45 minutes and stand in the rain to get it!