By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – After taking over the Ice Hut earlier this year, it didn’t take Monty and Shelley Wilson long to expand into other opportunities to provide Morinville residents with ice cream treats year round. The couple recently took over the former Morinville Cafe & Christian Bookstore location on 104 Street to open Best Friends Ice Cream Bar and More.
“We’ve always wanted all-year-round ice cream and there’s no place to go,” said co-owner Monty Wilson, noting that prior to opening the business people would have to travel outside Morinville to get home-made ice cream, often coming back disappointed by both the price and the quality. “Homemade ice cream is a real tricky thing because you have to get the right texture. If you don’t, it tastes like chalk.”
Wilson said over the past summer they served customers that travelled in from St. Albert for ice cream, telling the business owners it was half the price and superior in quality to what they could get at home.
But there was more to the Wilson family’s success than merely selling good ice cream at affordable prices. The family built the business a pace at a time, always thinking about what the customer’s needs were.
“We did the baby steps,” Wilson said, noting that after taking over the ice hut, the family talked about what would attract customers to their business. “It’s ice cream, but there are other places that sell ice cream. What’s so different about this place? It’s been here for a while and it’s got a reputation – never open. Guess what; let’s be open because that should bring them in. If we’re open, that’ll bring people.”
But being open was not enough for the family. They wanted the Ice Hut to be different and to offer something their customers would remember. One of the first things they did was to start offering doggie ice cream cones so customers out for a walk could stop and get something for themselves and their four-legged companions. Wilson said their doggie cones included a dog treat inside a baby cone, topped with sugar free ice cream.
But while the Wilsons, together with their children Tyler and Tiana, will offer the same variety of ice cream as they do at the hut (and even continue to serve ice cream loving dogs ice cream out the back door) the indoor location expands into milkshakes, sundaes, root beer floats and non-ice cream menu items, including subs, soups and sandwiches.
Wilson said the new establishment already has a good number of people coming in at lunch to enjoy a soup and a sandwich, but they are presently expanding the menu based on what their clientele would like to have. One area of expansion is gluten-free products, a niche that is growing in demand.
But whatever additions are made to the menu, the key for the Wilsons, whether it is at their Ice Hut location or their new indoor facility on 104 Street, has been giving the customer what they want and a desire to help develop the community they’ve called home for the past four years.
The Wilsons have already opened the doors of their establishment to the Caviar Players theatre group so they can hold auditions for their upcoming spring musical. Wilson said the family is hoping to hold other events at the eatery in the future.
Best Friends is open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday to Friday and from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The shop will be closed Sundays and holidays.