Meridian Industrial


6/1/2024 | TINA LESNIAK


Ice cream is an experience for anyone who’s ever stepped inside Mt. Tom’s Homemade Ice Cream and Candy Store on Cottage Street in Easthampton. It’s not just about the flavor, having a treat or just cooling off. It’s about so much more than that.

“I’ve always believed that an ice cream shop is about more than just its ice cream. Certainly, the ice cream must be the best it can be, and I believe our ice cream is super creamy, flavorful and arguably the best around,” explains Jim Ingram, owner of Mt. Tom’s. “Getting ice cream is an immersive experience. Let’s face it, grabbing a pint at the supermarket is easier. The secret to our success is not only our good ice cream. It’s our super-friendly servers and family-friendly atmosphere that bring people back. I believe that the combination of great homemade ice cream and a fun, friendly experience is why we’re still here more than 20 years later.”

More than 20 years ago, Mt. Tom’s Homemade Ice Cream was born when Ingram was laid off from his tech job at a struggling start-up company. Instead of looking for a job immediately, Ingram decided to take a year to travel and to take a break.

“Somewhere between here and California, the idea of taking the job loss as an opportunity to try something different took hold,” recalled Ingram. “I’d always wanted to start my own business, and it felt like my now or never moment.”

For Ingram, ice cream made sense. His dad had worked for big ice cream companies like Hood and Howard Johnson, and he had owned a couple of ice cream shops with Ingram’s mom.

“You could say ice cream is in my blood,” said Ingram. “When I returned from my travels, I enlisted his help to build my ice cream kitchen and teach me everything he knew about making and selling ice cream.”

Ingram continues to make the ice cream just the way he learned two decades ago. All the ice cream is homemade in the shop’s kitchen, one batch at a time for the highest quality. Ingram started with his dad’s recipe book and added many new flavors over the years.

“The creative process of inventing new flavors is the best part of making ice cream,” noted Ingram. “I’m always on the lookout for a new flavor. Ideas come from many sources, including the suggestion jar in the shop, flavor contests and my always-on-the-lookout eye. It’s fun to watch customers glance at the specials board and get excited about a new flavor.”

Mt. Tom’s best sellers include perennial favorites like vanilla, chocolate, cookie dough and mint chip, but also more unique flavors like cashew turtle, burnt sugar, lavender, black cherry and burnt coffee.

“Our burnt coffee has been a bestseller since its introduction nearly five years ago. When a special flavor is so popular that people get a little angry when it’s not available, that’s a sign to make it a permanent offering,” explained Ingram. “Cashew turtle is my personal favorite. It was the one I always chose at my dad’s shop, so it holds a nostalgic place in my heart.”

In addition to ice cream, Mt. Tom’s also offers ice cream cakes and pies. Those can be made with two different flavors and come in many sizes. With an artist on staff who can add edible artistry and pies made from a bed of cookies and fudge with a wide range of toppings, Mt. Tom’s also has the perfect dessert for any occasion.

Visitors to the shop can also choose from a range of penny candy, a nod to the location’s original roots as a penny candy and gourmet chocolate shop.

“As you’ll see when you visit, the old-fashioned look and feel of Mt Tom’s — with its high tin ceiling, hardwood floors, and hundreds of penny candy jars — was just too charming not to keep around,” explained Ingram. “While my passion is focused on making delicious ice cream, the candy and chocolates are other ways to bring joy to kids of all ages.”

The location, 34 Cottage St., has been a part of the revitalization of downtown Easthampton, which coincided with Ingram’s reinvention of his new life. Originally, he gave himself five years to make the shop work before he would make any big decisions about continuing or returning to his engineering career.

“That was just over 20 years ago,” remembered Ingram. “There have been many long days, sacrifices, and challenges along the way — just as my dad had warned — but it’s also been a blast and hugely satisfying to have found a way to make people happy for a living.”

Ingram has plans to commemorate the milestone of 20 summers, but those are still under wraps for now.

“An ice cream shop buddy of mine once told me, ‘We’re not just selling ice cream. We’re selling memories’” noted Ingram. “Who doesn’t reminisce about that favorite ice cream shop they went to as a kid? It’s pretty satisfying to be able to offer that kind of place to families here in Western Massachusetts. It’s been great to have had a ringside seat for the reinvention of Easthampton that’s taken place over these past two decades, and I fully expect Mt. Tom’s and Easthampton to just keep getting better and better.”

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