KATY, Texas — Some say ice cream can make everything better. Howdy Homemade, an ice cream shop new to Katy, is taking that message to heart.
According to its website, Howdy Homemade “is on a relentless pursuit to provide employment to individuals with special needs.”
Lines of supporters are expected at the grand opening at noon on Thursday. Austin David Hanson will be among the staff to greet the shop’s first customers.
He recommends you try Howdy Homemade’s strawberry ice cream.
“It makes me proud because I know we're going to be busy,” said Hanson of his first day jitters.
Howdy Homemade is a concept created by North Texan Tom Landis. The company’s website details how Landis looked for a way to employ the thousands and thousands of special needs adults in the Dallas area.
Landis and his ice cream shop were featured on a national news segment that Katy native and businessman Rod Batson happened to watch.
“So from there, I reached out to Tom and six months later we’re here,” said Batson while standing behind the counter of his brand new venture.
Howdy Homemade is available for franchising. Currently, there are locations in Dallas, Katy and Ashville, North Carolina.
“90 percent of my staff has high-functioning autism or Down syndrome or intellectual disabilities,” Batson said. “This shop will change that narrative.”
Employees are called heroes. They’re paid a full wage to scoop, serve and ring up customers.
“Our main goal is to have them run the entire store from front to back,” Batson said. “They can elevate up to being a store manager. They can elevate up to being the CEO of a Howdy chain here in Houston.”
He says the ice cream shop is fully staffed with dozens of applicants waiting for an opportunity.
“We have five to six people per day reaching out, needing a job and wanting a job. And so, unfortunately, we are having to turn down roughly 20 people a week that are asking for employment and the special needs community," Batson said.
It really spotlights the lack of employment opportunities available. Batson said it's “definitely sad. But it's empowering also because I feel like now we have the ability to kind of chop away at that at that statistic.”
Houston rapper and activist Trae Tha Truth is backing the business which is honoring Trae with some unique flavors. You can try for yourself beginning at noon on Thursday.
And don’t be surprised if you see Howdy Handmade Heroes outside of the Katy community. The local business will do community service. Just last week it donated 2,000 pints of ice cream to inmates at the Harris County Jail. Heroes talked to inmates about hope, opportunity and the importance of inclusion.