Making a Difference – Pete Mitchell: The man behind the ice cream
There’s nothing sweeter than feeling like the most important person in the room! And that’s how Pete Mitchell makes you feel. “It’s all about the relationships,” says Pete. “I tell myself to this day, ‘Slow down, enjoy people and don’t rush through things.’”
I met Pete in passing years ago. I wanted to know more about the man, one of two brothers behind the ice cream. During our conversation, Pete reflected on his journey to growing this community staple. “When my brother, Mike, and I first opened our ice cream shop in Westlake 21 years ago, we just thought it would be a fun, small business to be creative with,” says Pete.
What surprised Pete was that it was so much more. “Ice cream is such a nostalgic product that people can develop memories around.” As many of us can attest, it’s associated with celebrating a dance recital, a school play, or a big win against a football rival. “We did not see that coming when we got started, but it’s a very rewarding part of what we do.” says Pete.
“My brother and I feel so fortunate. We enjoy what we do very much,” says Pete. “The joy of our work is in the relationships we’ve made and the positive contribution we try to make in each community.”
Was being an ice cream entrepreneur always in the plans? “Definitely not – we stumbled into this idea,” says Pete. “Our goal has never been to become bigger than our home city of Cleveland. We like that things feel personal and intimate. We see how we make a positive impact in the community.”
Pete’s mother was very influential in shaping these values. “She was a single mother and a speech therapist in the Cleveland Public Schools System,” says Pete. “She worked with kids who had difficult challenges and was always an advocate for people. She taught not only me, but my sister and brother to treat people well and see the opportunity within each person."
But values and skills are two different things. “I wouldn’t say we were natural leaders,” says Pete. Pete reminded me he began his career as a salesperson. He only had to manage himself. “When we first opened the Westlake shop in October 1999, it was my brother and me and four part-time high school students. As we grew, it took time for me to get comfortable leading and bringing out the best effort in a group of people.”
How does Pete maintain his passion? “By far the two most rewarding things are receiving an unsolicited compliment about our friendliness and making progress over time!” says Pete.
What has been the biggest take away of Pete’s 21-year adventure? To no surprise, Pete answered “relationships”!
“Just a few days ago, I was thinking about one customer, Tom. Early on in our business, Tom, visited the Westlake store daily to ‘take the treatment’ as he called it: a large sundae, vanilla ice cream, strawberry topping, Spanish peanuts and whipped cream. He would order that for years. If we weren’t busy, my brother and I would sit and chat. He was charming. Years passed; Tom relocated, traveling to Cleveland on occasion. I was in our Solon shop six months ago, and guess who tapped me on the shoulder? Tom, ordering the same 'treatment' as always. Just yesterday, I received a really nice text from Tom with a photo of himself at our new Westlake shop, congratulating us. These are the things we can do for decades to come. When I’m old and done, these are the things I’ll look back on and feel good about."
Resident of Bay Village since 1987.