A family-owned ice cream shop that was part of the effort to enhance downtown will close its doors within a few weeks.
Amanda Mason, co-owner of Sippy and Opal’s Ice Cream and Sweet Treats along with her husband, Joe Mason, said that the shop on the ground floor of a renovated historic building at 327 N. Main St. will close once its supply of cream runs out, which is expected to be two or three weeks.
“I have encouraged people time and time again to shop small, shop local, eat local, drink local,” Mason said, who added that she “lives” that philosophy in her own life.
“Really nobody thought we would close,” she said, “and I prayed that we wouldn’t, but we are. And unless this is going to be a trend, we as a community have to do something different and we have to back our small businesses.”
The shop opened in December 2018 with a name that paid tribute to Amanda Mason’s grandparents. She said it is with sadness that she is now considering the next step in her career. Previously she served as a real estate specialist with a law firm. She and her husband, a Hagerman Police Department officer, will stay in the area.
“As MainStreet Roswell, we absolutely hate to see them go,” said Kathy Lay, executive director of the nonprofit organization who had praise for the Masons’ efforts to market the business and participate with the community in creative ways. “We felt they were a tremendous asset to the community and the district.”
Lay also said that her participation in entrepreneurship training since joining MainStreet has indicated how challenging starting a business is, especially in the food industry. An August 2018 Small Business Administration fact sheet indicates that only about half of new businesses remain open after five years.
The Masons purchased the historic Fisk Building from the city of Roswell in November 2017 after a public bid process. Built during 1902 and 1903, the Fisk Building had many lives over the years, including as a bank building, a bar and lounge, and a county office building.
The Masons renovated all levels and adopted a modernized country decor for the sweets shop. Mason said two of the five office spaces in the building are occupied and that discussions with a potential new tenant are underway.
She said they already have received inquiries about using the ground floor from a microbrewery and a couple of bakeries. Some investors also have made inquiries.
“I am not looking to make a quick buck and I am not going to short sale my business or downtown,” she said. “I’ve had somebody reach out and what they were proposing was going to be office space and I told them I am not interested. We took this on as a project and wanted to give back to the community, and we wanted to better downtown. And maybe we didn’t succeed in the way that we thought we would, but we are not giving up that dream. … I am open to hearing ideas, but we are not just giving it away and we are not just giving it to anyone. They will have to do what we couldn’t, which is survive, and they have to do what we could, which is participate in the community and give back.”
The downtown area has some intense competition, including several fast-food locations nearby that offer ice cream. But Mason acknowledges some issues resulted from management decisions, including the amount spent on décor and renovation, the decision to keep staff numbers high to have the standards of service wanted, and maintaining the quality ingredients wanted.
She said she became aware that the business might have to close in October and began making adjustments, including raising prices and making a difficult decision to lay off some employees, going from 20 staff during its peak to nine core people now.
“We are going to go out with our heads up high that we are going to give them the same level of service that we did on the day we opened,” she said.
She urged people to consider the local shops that remain.
“Our local businesses are the ones who are doing the sponsorships and donating items,” she aid. “The local businesses are the ones meeting that request, and they can’t continue to do that without community support.”
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.