TR Robertson –Downtown Historic Vista is now the home to Handel’s Ice Cream Shop, named the #1 ice cream in America in National Geographic’s article, “10 Best of Everything” and one of the top 500 franchises in 2020 listed by Entrepreneur Magazine. Even with these prestigious awards it is surprising how many people have never heard of Handel’s, even more surprising when you hear that this great tasting ice cream has been around since 1945.
Handel’s began in the home kitchen of Alice Handel in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1945. Alice designed personal ice cream recipes using fruit from her own backyard. One of the first flavored ice creams she made was strawberry, the favorite flavor of Vista Handel’s co-owner Travis Campbell. Travis said the concept of making their ice cream fresh everyday in the store is in keeping with Alice Handel’s making her ice cream, for the neighbors living around her, fresh daily in her kitchen.
Travis, along with partners Marcus Weenig and Keith Kesler, are the owners of eight operating ice cream shops and working on opening an additional Handel’s in San Clemente. Their first ice cream shop was in Laguna Nigel in 2018. Travis Campbell was a financial advisor before getting in the ice cream business. He said he has loved ice cream all of his life, starting with strawberry flavor, and the idea of owning and operating ice cream shops led him to investing in the Handel’s franchise operation. He and his family now live in Carlsbad. Travis’s wife, Tarah, and Chas Bradshaw make the different flavors daily in the elaborate ice cream machine in the back kitchen area of Handel’s.
In a “sit-down” with Travis and Vista store manager Shawnta Fleming, they both spoke about the excitement they have for opening Handel’s on Main Street Vista and love the idea that the store is on a classic main street in the downtown area. Travis said former City Economic Director Kevin Ham was instrumental in helping them find a spot in the downtown area. He said the building they are located in is a perfect fit for the walk-up style ice cream shop. They did run into a few problems initially with remodeling their location. Some of the challenges were dealing with roof issues, the floor and installing the proper electrical panels needed to run the various cooling and freezing systems the ice cream shop needs. Overcoming these issues, Handel’s in Downtown Vista is planning on joining the Vista Chamber of Commerce.
There are over 150 flavors Handel’s ice cream can come in with the Vista Shop having on hand 48 of these flavors. Customers can put the ice cream in cups, cake cones, sugar cones, dipped cones, waffle cones, or a waffle bowl as well as in pints and quarts. They also serve vegan ice cream, sorbets, sherbets and Ices as well as sundaes, hurricanes, shakes, banana splits, ice cream sandwiches, malts, floats, Handel Pops, and a 4-scoop sampler. Customers can contact the store manager or employees about pint card sales events, ice cream socials and Spirit Night where 20% of the sales go back to the organization holding the event. Travis wanted to point out that they are excited about working with different organizations to support the community. There are 90 Handel’s shops scattered in various states of the U.S., all active businesses in their communities.
On a tour of the shop, Travis pointed out the amazing system set-up for the employees who are trained how to locate the various flavors in the storage coolers, as well as make all of the different styles available and orders they receive from the walk-up customers. The operation of the dedicated ice cream makers is an impressive process. The Vista shop will make an average of 30-35 batches daily, as needed, with an elaborate washing system needed between making certain flavors, so as to not mix flavors from one batch to another. It takes about two weeks to train an ice cream maker.
Travis and Shawnta pointed out that working at Handel’s is a perfect job for young people getting their first job. Travis said they will hire teens as young as 15 that are reliable and hard workers, with 80% or their current employees under the age of 18. They currently employ 25-30 ice cream servers and plan on increasing that number to between 50-60 in the summer months. In the evenings, especially on the weekends, customers will find 5-6 windows open for ordering. Travis said door dash is also a popular method for customers to order pints and quarts and they can also order online from the Handel’s web site.
One of the fun activities, when at the downtown location, is to read the names of all of the flavors of ice cream they are serving. Some of the names are unique and you will want to go online to read about what is in that particular ice cream. Some of the clever names: Midnight Madness, Spouse Like a House, Heavenly Hash, Tin Lizzy, Tiger Strippes, Cotton Candy and Birthday Cake. Some of my favorites as far as flavors include Key Lime Pie, Cherry Vanilla, Praline Pecan, Salty Caramel Truffle, Banana Cream Pie, Cherry Magnolia and Snickerdoodle. With 48 flavors being served you will have no trouble finding either your favorite or something new to try.
You will find Handel’s a perfect fit for an afternoon snack, a great dessert after a dinner at one of the many downtown restaurants or a place to order ice cream to take home. The Vista Handel’s location is 207 Main St. in Downtown Historic Vista. Their hours are Monday thru Thursday Noon – 10 pm, Friday & Saturday 11 am until 11 pm and Sunday 11 am until 10 pm. Their phone number is 760-295-0636. The web site to check out information on what Handel’s has to offer, franchising and a description of the flavors of all of their ice cream offerings is www.handelsicecream.com.
Photos TR Robertson