Archive for Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Couple brings frozen custard west

April 24, 2007

With warmer weather likely here to stay, it's only natural that residents' thoughts will soon turn to ice cream -- or more specifically, custard.

Western Shawnee residents now have a unique ice cream option in one new business, Emily's Frozen Custard, 5428 Roberts. The shop is the area's first to specialize in ice cream, and owners Emily and Adam Benlon say they are ready to perfect the ice cream experience.

The Benlons each grew up in Johnson County, Adam a Shawnee native and Shawnee Mission Northwest High School graduate, and Emily a Shawnee Mission West graduate from Lenexa. But it wasn't until they were both at Pittsburg State University that they met.

After college, they lived on the west coast for a year and then on the east coast for another year before returning to Kansas City two years ago. Adam worked for Toyota Motors, and Emily was with an advertising agency. But she said she felt the itch to change her career.

"I always wanted to open my own business but didn't know what I wanted to do," Emily said.

Living in western Shawnee for some time soon gave them an idea. Both professed ice cream lovers, the Benlons said they weren't happy that the only ice cream options in the area were the ice cream at fast food restaurants.

So they started investigating what it would take to provide the area with its own premium ice cream shop. After first considering opening a franchise of some sort, they found a company called Frozen Custard Outfitters that could supply them with machinery and teach them how to blend their own custard.

Then, they had to decide on a location. In the end, they said the new Woodsonia West retail center at Johnson Drive and Kansas Highway 7 was perfect.

"We wanted kids to be able to ride their bikes here," Emily said. "We looked at the growth and just thought it would be convenient for everybody."

An added benefit was being surrounded by other locally-owned businesses: family-friendly Double Dino's Pizza on one side, and on the other, Snap Fitness, run by Jen and Matt Rhodes, whom the Benlons know from college.

The Benlons also took a hands-on approach to finishing their store; the couple picked out all the interior decor and did much of the interior work themselves. Creating their own unique brand of custard was much more fun.

The Benlons got their main custard recipe from a shop in Illinois, a recipe that has won several "Best of Chicago" awards. They said one of the longest processes was experimenting to come up with their own perfect blend of vanilla.

They also got to come up with their own blends of ingredients for their signature sundaes and concretes, once again calling on friends and family for the perfect combinations of ingredients, and names. The Big Beagle is named for a friend's dog; Sunset at Redondo Beach refers to their home in California.

The Vanilla Gorilla is, of course, in honor of the mascot of their alma mater. Others, like the Shawnee Spectacular, the Mill Valley Mudslide and the Clear Creek Crunch pay homage to the neighborhood. The store also has floats, fruit smoothies, slushies, iced coffee, frozen custard cakes and of course, custard by the scoop.

The recent cold snap presented a slight challenge when the shop first opened a month ago.

"But that's actually been a blessing in disguise, because it gave us a chance to work out all of the kinks," Adam said.

With the kinks now worked out, the Benlons said their goal is to provide a fun, friendly experience for everyone that walks through the door, adding that, as always, there is an advantage to a locally-owned shop.

"When you come in here, either Adam or I will be here," Emily said. "If you ever have a question or a comment, we're the ones make the decisions about how we do things."

For more information, contact Emily's at (913) 441-2260 or visit

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