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Howdy Homemade Ice Cream hires those with special needs, such as Down syndrome and autism

Spotlight on Howdy Homemade Ice Cream

The scoop on the ice cream parlor creating jobs for those with special needs

My 6-year-old niece and I can personally attest that the Dr Pepper Chocolate Chip flavor tastes, as she put it, “Oooh yummy! Ahh!” We had both opted for a scoop of Howdy Homemade’s signature, soda-infused ice cream in a waffle cone, then jointly proclaimed our new mission: to try every single flavor this year—and I’ve already got my eye on Parker County Peach (and the new Happily Ever Bananas!) for next time.

It’s clear from our recent visit that the North Dallas ice cream company has found the right formula, both as a thriving business known for its original flavors, and better still for employing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including Down syndrome and autism. Founder and owner Tom Landis sees this not as a charity but as a smart business model that he hopes becomes an industry standard. 

“I stand in awe of my employees,” says Landis, describing his team’s unending patience with clients and fellow employees, their diligence in performing repetitive tasks, and the pride they take in their work. “In the culinary industry, we need consistency, and that’s where our employees excel.”

RELATED: Read our Q&A with Howdy Homemade founder Tom Landis

Howdy Homemade founder Tom Landis, photo by Robert Zimmerman
Tom Landis, photo courtesy of Robert Zimmerman

With more franchise locations now open in Katy (near Houston), one coming to Lubbock and more in the pipeline—business is booming. Landis founded Howdy Homemade Ice Cream back in 2015 and runs the company alongside Coleman Jones, who has Down syndrome. Jones was the company’s first employee and continues working at the shop today in a leadership position as one of several vice presidents. 

The staff of 15 “Howdy Heroes” are all trained to make and freeze the ice cream themselves on-site, even making the batter for the waffle cones and waffle bowls. They greet clients with a Texas “hello,” offer generous samples, and scoop and serve the ice cream into cups and cones.

Try your choice of the more than 30 rotating flavors, including a dairy-free sorbet. “My main thing is we never run out of Dr Pepper Chocolate Chip, and if the music isn’t on, we have to sing,” Landis quips. To simplify the point-of-sale transactions, the register takes cards and dollar bills only, eliminating the need to tediously count back coins. 

For ice cream on the go, you can grab a pint from the in-store freezer. Plus, you can now find six special flavors for sale in pints at more than 100 H-E-B stores. In fact, Dr Pepper Chocolate Chip recently earned Howdy Homemade third place in the grocery chain’s Quest for Texas Best competition, and Landis says the company now sets aside 25 cents from the sale of each pint to create jobs.

The staff’s latest effort is a massive tour to every single H-E-B store where Howdy Homemade pints are sold and offering samples to shoppers. You may recognize some of the employees handing out samples because their faces are on the cartons. Each of the flavors sold in pints at H-E-B are printed with images of employees, including Howdy Hero Brandt—the face of a flavor called Chocolate As All Get-Out. “They feel like rock stars,” Landis says. 

Howdy Homemade, Brandt
Pictured: Howdy Hero Brandt at H-E-B

Stay tuned for more on the horizon from Howdy Homemade, including a possible new flavor that Landis describes as a genius idea from an employee during a brainstorming session: “two words: Shirley Temple.”

Landis aspires not only for the company’s and employees’ success, but to improve the quality of life for locals with special needs. “I’ve never met someone with special needs who isn’t lonely,” says Landis, as he spoke about his hopes to organize a social club for group outings—like renting out a movie theater—to help build connections and friendship within the special needs community outside of work. Wouldn’t that be sweet. 

Location: 12300 Inwood Road, Suite 200, Dallas
Hours: Open daily; Sunday–Wednesday noon–8pm; Thursday–Saturday noon–9pm
Contact: 214/484-1552; howdyhomemade.com; email kari@howdyhomemade.com to inquire about a position.
Follow: On Instagram @howdyhomemade and on Facebook @howdyhomemade