Lil Ice Cream Dude 2021

Vickie Shell, Beau Shell and Rick Shell pose for a photo at the Lil’ Ice Cream Dude’s Cool World Ice Cream shop in Athens on June 24, 2021. Beau Shell, 17, is the owner of the shop, which he opened in 2019. (Photo/Olyn Gee)

On June 11, the website of the “Today” show featured an article about the 41 best ice cream shops and frozen treat brands in the United States. At number 19: Lil’ Ice Cream Dude’s Cool World Ice Cream Shop in Athens.

Many readers may be familiar with the origin of the local ice cream shop, which has now received national recognition. Beau Shell, the entrepreneur and owner of the shop, is 17 years old and a rising senior at Cedar Shoals High School.

“I'm happy they thought enough of me to be on the list,” Shell said. In the future, he hopes to make the top 10.

Vickie Shell, Beau Shell’s mother, said he was not satisfied with his $7 allowance when he was 7 years old. He asked for an ice cream cart for his 8th birthday so he could make extra money, she said. His parents gave him the cart, which is now on display at the shop.

“And then he extended his business into an ice cream trailer, which he calls the popsicle,” Vickie Shell said.

To remodel the trailer, Beau Shell used crowdfunding to raise $3,000 and got a bank loan for the balance in 2014, he said. The trailer is still in use today for catering events.

With the help of friends and supporters who donated time, materials and money, Beau Shell opened his ice cream shop on his 15th birthday in 2019, and the shop became a family business.

“My husband retired from his job of 32 years, and I left teaching after 17 to work full time for Beau,” Vickie Shell said.

Rick Shell, Beau Shell’s father, acts as the logistics manager for catering, keeps the shop orderly and serves customers in the shop.

“We all have our little roles and responsibilities, and we just hang in and get the job done,” Rick Shell said.

When the pandemic started, Beau Shell and his family decided they were essential workers and kept the shop open but closed the indoor dining area. Beau Shell said he adapted and posted an online menu, offering either curbside pickup or home delivery using a service.

“Although it got hard, a lot of our community, still once again, came and supported us,” Beau Shell said. “There were even people who gave some of their stimulus checks to us.”

Reflecting on the pandemic, Vickie Shell said what she really wants to tell people is that they were very blessed with their customers.

Vickie Shell said sales are now climbing, with the shop receiving 75% of what they had pre-COVID. The shop’s catering business is also doing well, she said.

“It is imperative to do all the research in your industry,” Beau Shell said as advice for young people who are considering starting a business.

Now, Beau Shell has an additional goal — doing well on the SAT to gain admission to the University of Georgia and the Terry College of Business.

In college, Beau Shell looks forward to learning how to develop the most effective systems for running his business, he said. So whether an employee is “18 or 81, they'll still be able to serve ice cream with good customer service.”