Waffle Cone to close in December for expansion, aided by CCEDC
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation approved an incentive agreement on Wednesdsay with the Waffle Cone to cover half the cost of a 24-quart horizontal batch freezer, aiding in the expansion efforts of the local ice cream shop.
The EDC agreed to pay $13,600 to cover 50 percent of the total cost for the freezer.
“This is an opportunity for us to support a local businessman, local entrepreneur and a company that has prospects to grow,” said EDC Executive Director Jonas Titas. “Right now, their assets are not sufficient to support their growth, and they’ve put together a plan to grow their footprint and start creating additional stores throughout the Central Texas region. Looking at this business plan, we were able to identify some hard assets that are production equipment that we could partner with him.”
Waffle Cone owner John Hayes said that currently the Waffle Cone is using a six-quart machine.
“Honestly, it’s not enough to run this operation here, but the machine that we are going to purchase with that [EDC agreement] is going to be a 24-quart air-cooled Emery Thompson machine made in Florida, and it is going to quadruple the amount of ice cream that we’ll be able to produce in one hour.”
There are plans to expand into the neighboring space in the Cove Terrace Shopping Center and turn that space into a commercial kitchen designed for ice cream, with the ability to produce ice cream for up to five parlor locations. The idea is to create a “hub system” with Copperas Cove as the center location within a 50-mile radius and the ability to open ice cream parlors within that 50 miles.
“So, we want to work our way through that, and if we expand past that, we’ll open other hub systems,” Hayes said. “If we open up other hubs, that will perfectly fine, but Copperas Cove will remain the headquarters for the expansion of the company.”
Expanding next door includes efforts to subdivide that unit into three parts, add water lines and move in the necessary equipment, he said. With this added space and the new batch freezer, the Waffle Cone will be able to keep close to 300 gallons of ice cream in the Cove location.
Other plans include the opening of a second location on Central Avenue in downtown Belton, with ice cream made in Copperas Cove. If everything works out, the location will be open for business March 1, just in time for the beginning of ice cream season, Hayes said.
“We’ve been doing this for nine years now, and I’ve always wanted to have more than one store,” Hayes said. Now the business is profitable throughout the year, aside from the winter months, he added.
“We’ve got it to a point now that it’s not horrible, it’s not scary,” Hayes said about the profitable margins of the business. This year is a bit different with the expansion efforts, though, he added.
“It’s still a little scary this year, but we’ll get through this one and then next year is going to be a lot more fun because I’m not going to worry about the winter anymore,” Hayes said. “ I’ll have enough money to get through the winter without scraping by.”
Hayes said running the Waffle Cone was a lot of fun and the business was successful, but still not something that could make millions.
“You can’t have many Bluebells,” Hayes said. “It doesn’t work anymore, but the system that we’ve come up with, the spoke and hub system, will let us grow and expand, so I think it’ll be fun.”
Hayes said the EDC’s help was definitely needed.
“We didn’t plan on it, and it was just a fluke thing that we went down there and talked to them and it worked out the way it does,” Hayes said. “We had two big acquisitions that we had to make. The batch freezer was pretty close to $30,000 for a machine, and we had to buy a brand-new van because we have to be able to transport the ice cream, and I could not do both. The EDC coming through with the 50 percent of the batch freezer meant that we were able to make this work.”
The freezer will eventually pay for itself in labor alone, Hayes said.
“Being able to make four times the amount of ice cream in the same amount of time is just going to be game-changing for us,” he said. “I just can’t stress how important that piece of equipment was again.”
The Waffle Cone will be keeping the older six-quart machine and with the two freezers will have the capacity to make 30 quarts of ice cream per hour.
“That’s going to be great. I will finally be able to train somebody how to make ice cream,” Hayes said. “The heart of the Waffle Cone is the ice cream that we make, and I hate turning that over, but I know I have to do it sooner or later.”
Hayes said with the new location in Belton, he will have to spend more time there but will be leaving the store in Copperas Cove in capable hands.
The Waffle Cone will be closed December 8 through December 27, 2019 for some maintenance and changes. Hayes expected the remodeling project for the expansion next door would begin next month as well but should only take about 10 days.
With the expansion, this means new jobs added to Copperas Cove.
Hayes said he will be looking to hire for three full-time positions in January, with information posted on the Waffle Cone Facebook page.
The Waffle Cone is located at 508 Cove Terrace Shopping Center and their winter hours are 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.