Family businesses can prove challenging, but for Palmetto sisters Mindy and Ali Converse, it has been a blessing. The siblings grew up in a family of third-generation dairy farmers in small-town New England, and spent a lot of time experimenting with homemade ice cream. As teenagers, the pair developed a business plan to open their own ice cream shop. In 2017, the family moved from New England to Palmetto, where the Converses launched American Honey Creamery out of an ice cream truck.
"It was kind of serendipitous how we found the truck," says Ali. "We passed it at our storage unit every day for a year, so our mom asked for the owner's contact information. We bought it off of him and added our logo to the front."
The pair began making and selling ice cream in small batches from the truck, which gave them 12 cubic feet to work with. They traveled to farmers' markets, business events and neighborhoods sharing their flavors. In order to keep ice cream fresh and cold in the summer, the sisters would wake up at 4 a.m. to make ice cream and finish it late at night to avoid the Florida heat. In the two years they used the truck, they made connections with the community, including a dairy co-op in St. Petersburg and local produce farmers like the Albritton family in Sarasota.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the Converses were looking to purchase a storefront in a plaza near their Palmetto neighborhood. The area is growing fast, and they knew it was the perfect spot. But they decided to hold off.
"We were patient with it, because of the virus, but we held out hope because we love the area—how rural it is, with a small town atmosphere," says Ali. They finally purchased the store last July and the family began renovating the space. The store has family portraits hanging on the walls. Mindy says they want people to feel like they are "walking into our family's Southern kitchen."
The shop officially opened last month and has earned from the community. It is the first family-owned coffee and ice cream shop in the neighborhood. There aren't even chains like Starbucks yet. The shop welcomes more than 200 customers per day, serving ice cream made in six-quart batches almost daily.
Flavors include classics like vanilla, chocolate and cookies and cream, but also unique creations like American Honey, a vanilla and honey salted ice cream with a honey swirl, and Country Road, a spin on Rocky Road made in tribute to singer John Denver. The Converses pay homage to other country music icons on the signature sundae menu. Whiskey River nods to Willie Nelson, with a butter pecan ice cream drizzled with a homemade bourbon caramel sauce. Ring of Fire, a tribute to Johnny Cash, is a sundae with a Southern biscuit base, American Honey ice cream and Mike's Hot Honey on top. The shop's name comes from the country music band Lady A (formerly known as Lady Antebellum).
"We also wanted to serve lattes based off a coffee shop in Clayton, Georgia, we used to visit on vacation," says Mindy. "We serve Joffrey's coffee, and went to the company's barista training sessions to learn how to make specialty drinks."
The coffee menu includes drinks like a German chocolate latte, American Honey cold brew, a maple leaf latte, a wildflower latte made with lavender and honey, a cowboy cookie latte with toffee and graham crackers, and the "9 to 5," a Dolly Parton-inspired drink with Southern-style pralines. Of course, if you're looking for a plain brew and a cookie on the side, the shop can also accommodate you.
"Honestly, it doesn't feel like I'm working with my sister, but my best friend," says Mindy. "Ali is much more organized and I am more of the creative side, so we balance each other well."
American Honey Creamery and Coffee Co. is located at 4919 96th St. E., Palmetto. The shop is open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. For more info, call (941) 981 3830 or visti the shop's website.