Kimberly Elam works at her shop, Kimmer’s Ice Cream, on a daily basis getting to know customers and creating unique flavors to serve. (Melissa Jenco/TribLocal photo)
Kimberly Elam’s entrepreneurship professors at the University of Iowa advised her to do what she knows.
What Kimberly Elam knows is ice cream.
The 23-year-old Batavia native has opened Kimmer’s Ice Cream in downtown St. Charles, where she gets to share her love of the cold creamy treat with customers and dish out new and unique flavors on a daily basis. The shop is located at 1 W. Illinois St.
“Everybody that comes in is usually in a good mood,” she said. “That’s why I always loved the business in the first place. And then what I really love now is the creative aspect.”
Elam said she has had a soft spot for ice cream since childhood, prompting her parents to nickname her the Dairy Queen.
As a student at Batavia High School, she worked at a Baskin-Robbins where she watched her boss go through the process of opening an independent shop, the Batavia Creamery.
“I was kind of with him through that transition and it was interesting because it was really like he was starting his own business because he had to find new suppliers and paper products… so it was kind of a cool process to learn,” she said.
When she headed off to the University of Iowa, she opted for an English major, not entirely sure what career path she wanted to pursue. She also worked toward a certificate in entrepreneurship thinking maybe one day she could become a business owner.
Whenever her professors gave an assignment to create a business plan, she found herself writing finance and marketing plans for ice cream shops, capitalizing on what she learned during her high school job.
As graduation approached in the spring of 2010 and the job market continued to look dismal, her family encouraged her to pursue opening an ice cream business of her own. A shop for sale in La Grange caught her eye, but the purchase fell through and she spent much of her summer waitressing instead.
The situation turned out to be for the best, she said. Her mother learned about Ice Cream University and thought it would be the perfect fit for her daughter. Elam packed her bags and spent a week in New Jersey learning about everything from equipment and location to creating unique flavors.
Kimberly Elam, 23, is bringing her lifelong love of ice cream to downtown St. Charles where she has opened Kimmer’s Ice Cream. (Melissa Jenco/Tribune)
In October, she purchased Gramp’s Frozen Custard in St. Charles and turned it into Kimmer’s Ice Cream with the help of her parents who gave her a loan. She jokingly calls them her “not so silent partners,” but says she is grateful for their help, both with financing and handiwork around the shop.
“If it weren’t for them I don’t think I would have gotten this opportunity, so it’s really a blessing,” she said.
Batavia Creamery owner Kirk Jansons said Elam is his first employee in 20 years to go on to open her own shop, but he believes she has the right personality to be successful.
“She had that spark in her eye of owning a business and she always loved ice cream and her family loved ice cream and it seemed like it fit,” he said.
His main advice to Elam has been to get involved in the community and she already is doing just that as the sponsor of a girls’ soccer team.
While the shop opened in the fall, she considered the first months her “training wheel period” and finally held an official grand opening ceremony last month to formally introduce the business.
In addition to selling ice cream and custard, the shop has cakes and pies. It also can be rented to host birthday parties, showers and other events.
“It’s been amazing, really eye opening,” Elam said. “I never realized how much work it is. I have a whole new respect for anyone who owns their own business or even managers their own business.”
Elam is at the shop daily, running it with friend Shayla Ellis who helps come up with unique flavors like red velvet cake, doughnut, maple bacon and ricotta and fig.
“It’s fun to kind of explore and do new things and it’s kind of fun to test the customers and see what they’ll put up with and how far they’re willing to go with the different flavors,” Elam said.
Part of what makes the shop unique, she said, is that she and Ellis like to “amp it up” by relying more on taste buds than measuring cups to determine how much of each ingredient should be in their ice cream.
“We want to make it the best it can be,” Elam said. “And we want people to remember it.”
Kimmer’s Ice Cream is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For information visit www.kimmersicecream.com.