St. Charles, Ill. —
Kimberly “Kimmer” Elam may only be 23 years old, but she’s been plotting a sweet career path for seven years. A 2010 University of Iowa graduate, she purchased the Gramp’s Frozen Custard shop in St. Charles upon the owner’s retirement late last year, and reinvented it as Kimmer’s Ice Cream. The original recipes for favorite custard creations have been preserved, but Elam is happily inventing a complementary range of ice cream flavors targeting a range of tastes from the very young consumer to sophisticated foodies.
The Batavia native’s focus on the ice cream business started when she turned 16 and took a job at Baskin-Robbins, which became Batavia Creamery, its owner serving as her mentor.
“It was a great first job, and awareness (dawned that) people are always happy when they’re coming into an ice cream shop,” she says. “I realized that all throughout my academic career, I had been writing business plans that had been centered on ice cream shops — marketing plans, finance plans, real estate projects. It was comical; clearly I have a vision here,” she laughs about the revelation.
She then attended Ice Cream University in New Jersey for total immersion.
“We’re manufacturing every day,” says Elam, noting customers will find a changing array of 22 flavors daily. About a quarter are Gramp’s custard recipes, and the remainder are a collaboration by Elam with Assistant Manager Shayla Ellis of Batavia, recent culinary school graduate.
“She’s my go-to person (for) flavor development,” Elam says. “We met at age 9, playing Tri-Cities Soccer. We pride ourselves (on) classic and gourmet flavors.”
They range from red velvet cake to caramel with sea salt, a sweet-and-salty hit. A big draw is Parent Trap — cookies and cream with peanut-butter ribbons, Elam says, adding, “It walks right out of here.”
Frozen custard and ice cream each have their fans. She explains that frozen custard has a little lower butterfat content, with eggs making it creamy, while slightly higher butterfat levels lend creaminess to ice cream, which is egg free.
A regular at Kimmer’s is Deb Newman Roe of Aurora.
“Kim has an unbelievable energy,” Newman Roe says. “She’s really enthusiastic — so committed to being a success. The products are just terrific. She’s so imaginative about coming up with flavors — not just (for) kids … but (combinations like) ricotta and fig. They’re exciting for the adult palate — exotic and fun. My favorite (is) the Aztec hot chocolate, which has a little bite to it. It’s a surprise. You get the sweet and the chocolate in the beginning — at the end a little touch of hot.”
Elam also creates decorated ice cream pies and cakes. Available in the freezer case, they can be personalized last minute.
In addition to the shop near the Fox River and its bike paths, Elam will have an ice cream cart at events including the Thursday night concerts this summer at Lincoln Park in St. Charles.
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