Kim Elam loves ice cream, all kinds, all flavors. Her love of the gooey dessert began when she was a youngster.
"My mom and dad used to call me the 'dairy queen' because I liked it so much," said the young entrepreneur, owner of Kimmer's Ice Cream in St. Charles.
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When Elam was a student at Batavia High School, she took on a summer job to pay for gas money. Where did she look for employment? Baskin Robbins.
"I worked there for years and I loved it," said Elam. "I had a great boss who taught me a lot about the ice cream business."
Although she had no intention of going into the ice cream business when she started her college years at the University of Iowa, she did pursue a business degree. When she graduated the idea of opening an ice cream shop just seemed like a natural transition.
"In one of my classes, the professor stressed that you should do what you love," she said. "I decided that ice cream was something I really liked and I decided to pursue the idea of opening a shop."
Elam's mother, Lynn, a librarian, was doing some research and discovered a website for Ice Cream University. Kim was excited to enroll for the weeklong course.
"My parents are the best," she said. "My dad even offered to go out to the class with me. He spent a lot of time washing my dishes."
Ice Cream University doesn't teach shop owners how to scoop ice cream. The head of Ice Cream U teaches the creativity of combining different ingredients to come up with unique flavors.
"One of the first ice creams we made was a creamy flavor made from ricotta cheese and sugared figs," said Elam. "It was so good. I couldn't wait to start coming up with flavors of my own."
That is what distinguishes Elam from other ice cream shop owners. She is all about gourmet ice creams. She still has the standard flavors at her shop, but you'll also find new mixes like Red Velvet Cake and Aztec Chocolate.
"Aztec Chocolate has cayenne pepper and cinnamon in it, but I can't tell you how much of each without giving away the recipe," she says with a smile that is as bright as the sprinkles she uses to delight her younger customers.
If she had her way, Elam would be spending the entire day in her own ice cream lab, coming up with the gourmet flavors she plans to make. However, the industrious business owner realizes that one needs to concentrate on the back of the business to be successful.
"Right now I am trying to grow my business, get my Web page set up and let people know that I am here," she said. "The location (formerly Gramp's Custard) is great and the Blue Goose has been a great neighbor. They even let me sample my ice cream at their store."
Elam feels very fortunate to have support from her friends who have tweeted about the shop and posted on their Facebook pages.
"When I needed photographs done for my Web page, I contacted a high school friend, Mary Bach, because I knew that she was starting a new business too," added Elam.
Opening a new business in a down economy is tough. Opening an ice cream business in the winter when many are trying to lose weight is even tougher. Elam is so fired up about her business that she won't let anything deter her. She has the drive, the energy and a great product.
If you like ice cream, especially creamy intoxicating flavors that you can't find anywhere else, Kimmer's is the place for you.
The shop, at 1 W. Illinois St., St. Charles, is open from noon to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. For details, call (630) 762-9480.