DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – “To go order,” shouts Coleman Jones standing behind the register.
It was 2015 and he worked the register at Texadelphia, a Dallas restaurant.
Between frying onions and serving up chips and Queso, Tom Landis cooked up a dream.
“All day long Coleman is going to give good customer service, in fact, I’m going to bet my life savings on it,” promised Landis in 2015 to CBS 11.
And he did just that.
To open Howdy Homemade Ice Cream, the restaurant owner mortgaged his home and got a loan from Chase Bank that eventually put Jones in the spotlight of a Chase Bank commercial.
In late 2015, the dream became a reality.
“Frankly I think God put it on my heart to open a business that would really employee people with special needs, not just as…bus [people] but fully empower them where they could truly run it.”
By 2016, Howdy Homemade’s signature Dr Pepper ice cream debuted at the State Fair of Texas.
Also that year, Landis received a lifetime achievement award presented by one of the biggest supporters of the special needs community- former college football Coach and Philanthropist Gene Stallings.
For three years, Howdy made local and national headlines.
In this 2018 Ones for Texas on CBS 11 one employee said, “I want to be an entrepreneur.”
Another said, “I like to see the smiles on little kids faces.”
But in March of this year, the once packed parlor, like so many small businesses, abruptly closed, for so many reasons.
“A lot people with special needs have compromised immune systems… so we made the decision right away that we’re just shutting down,” explained Landis.
Landis applied for the first round of government aid, but the funds had run out. “Someone said it was like being in line for a kidney transplant, just that money is life blood.”
He said the social loss inside the ice cream shop was as great as the financial. The special news advocate explained how jobs for those with special needs evaporate at times like this.
Landis says people also assume the once bustling places may not be as clean.
But a month later, Howdy Homemade got some help and hope. Landis received funds with the second round of government aid.
In late April, Jones went back to work. He welcomed our cameras with a suit and big smile on his face.
“Hi Ginger. My name is Coleman Jones and I am the vice president of Howdy Homemade,” he said standing in the front of the store spreading his arms wide and proud.
Jones sent Landis back to customer service. Landis was wearing a white chef shirt and mask scooping ice cream and working the cash register.
Coleman was curbside. Taking orders and welcoming customers back.
“How are you doing?” greeted each car which sat in the parking spaces just in front of the ice cream parlor.
Together they’re determined to prove the challenges the 12 employees at Howdy Homemade face it make it the safest, cleanest place around.
“Our employees have PHD’s in social distancing. When you have special needs, a lot of times you are socially distanced. So our employees are built to thrive in this environment. And it’s also one that demands you stick adhere to a checklist and cleaning procedures and that’s something our employees have proven and have continued to prove they do better,” said Landis.
Coleman smiled from ear to ear explaining how grateful he was to be back at a place he loves so much.
“I’m very blessed to be back at work too not just for Howdy sake but for our employees sake as well because I love them too and I also love Howdy.”