In coming up with a name for their new ice cream shop in Brownstown, Frank and Carolyn Ira referred back to their time in the Chincoteague and Assateague islands in Virginia after they got married.
“It was like a step back in time,” Carolyn Ira said. “It’s a beautiful place. It’s like stepping back into ‘Mayberry R.F.D.’ The speed limit was 20 miles per hour on the whole island, and it was on island time. It’s people eating ice cream walking down the street, on their bicycles, people on their front porches. You just felt welcomed. It was wonderful.”
The result was the name Back Porch Ice Cream and the motto “Where You Never Need a Reservation.”
Everyone stays busy all of the time, Carolyn Ira said, and they wanted a place where people could gather, relax and enjoy ice cream.
Since opening April 20, the couple have received a lot of feedback about the business, including how it is a good place to spend quality time with friends and family.
“One really stands out in my mind that said they appreciated Brownstown having an ice cream place where they could bring their daughter and make memories like their dad made memories with them,” Carolyn Ira said. “That right there is what it’s all about.”
The idea for the business came up this past fall when the Iras were eating at an ice cream shop. They thought they would like to open their own in Brownstown.
“It was kind of a bucket list thing,” Frank Ira said.
Earlier this year, they began remodeling the 325-square-foot building at 1101 W. Commerce St.
The Iras both have full-time jobs — Carolyn has been a special education teacher at Brownstown Central High School for 33 years, and Frank is a general manager at Evans Limestone Co., where he has worked for 44 years. So once they leave those posts, they head to the ice cream shop until it closes at 10 p.m.
“We have five grandchildren and another one on the way, and (Frank) didn’t just want to retire and do nothing, and I still have six years left to teach,” Carolyn Ira said. “We just kept thinking, ‘What can we do that’s seasonal but yet we can still enjoy our grandchildren and have some offseason, as well?’”
In selecting the brand of soft-serve and hand-dipped ice cream they wanted to offer, Frank Ira said they had tried Ashby’s Sterling and liked its higher percentage of butterfat.
Back Porch Ice Cream is one of only two places in the state south of Indianapolis that serves that brand.
“This ice cream, it’s expensive, but there’s a reason it’s expensive, and it’s good,” Frank Ira said.
Ashby’s Sterling has more than 70 hand-dipped flavors. Back Porch Ice Cream keeps 12 in its dipping cabinet with several other flavors in storage. When one tub is empty, a new flavor takes its spot.
“‘Variety is the spice of life’ is what our distributor told us. At first, I didn’t understand that, but it’s the truth,” Carolyn Ira said. “Whatever we have in the cabinet sells.”
The shop offers no-sugar-added and sorbet (nondairy) hand-dipped ice cream, and the soft-serve flavors are chocolate, vanilla and chocolate-vanilla twist.
Other ice cream offerings include banana splits; milkshakes, malts and sundaes in 13 flavors; and WhirleyGigs with 11 types of mix-ins, including candy bar and cookie pieces, rainbow sprinkles, pineapple, coconut and cookie dough.
The name WhirleyGig comes from a pasta dish Carolyn Ira’s mother used to make for her kids.
“It kind of carries that on,” she said. “She’s 85 and has worked her whole life, and she’s pretty special, so I think that was pretty neat.”
Back Porch Ice Cream also sells Sprecher’s Root Beer and Back Yard Lemonade, and each can be mixed with ice cream for a root beer float or a lemon swirl.
The menu also consists of frozen bananas with or without nuts, Hebrew National all-beef hot dogs with seven different types of toppings and Deep River Snacks potato chips in seven flavors.
The unique aspect of the chips is the company gives a portion of the proceeds of each bag sold to a variety of causes, including autism awareness and the liver foundation.
“We wanted to have something you couldn’t just go to the store and pull off the shelf,” Carolyn Ira said of the shop’s menu.
The prices are reasonable, too, Frank Ira said.
“We wanted a place where a guy could take his family out, get them ice cream and not break him up, not ruin the budget for the month,” he said. “You can take a family of four and have milkshakes and ice cream and all that, and you can get out of here for less than 20 bucks.”
The Iras have nine teenagers and a couple of other adults working in the shop. Carolyn Ira said they wanted kids who could manage a part-time job and academics.
“Me being a teacher, the student part is really important,” she said, noting that one of the boys studied for finals one night while in between customers and cleaning up.
“We’ve got excellent kids, and they work well with the public,” she said. “They are friendly, and they are learning more than just dipping ice cream. They are learning about managing time.”
The business will be open through the second week of October. The Iras agreed that operating a business has been a learning process, but it also has been fun.
Frank Ira said he has liked working with the high school students and seeing families visit the shop, while it has given Carolyn Ira a chance to see former students.
“For 18 years, I had the student council at the high school, so seeing those kids coming back now with their kids and making memories here and just enjoying it and sitting out here … I think that’s probably one of the neatest things,” she said.
“I’m just really thankful that the community has supported us the way that it has,” she added. “It’s a business that we can enjoy and really give back to the community. They’ve supported us 100 percent.”
What: Back Porch Ice Cream
Where: 1101 W. Commerce St., Brownstown
Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 2 to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; once school starts, hours will shift to 4:30 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 2 to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Menu: Ashby’s Sterling hand-dipped and soft-serve ice cream, banana splits, milkshakes, malts, sundaes, WhirleyGigs, Sprecher’s Root Beer (drink and float), Back Yard Lemonade (drink and lemon swirl), frozen bananas, Hebrew National all-beef hot dogs, Deep River Snacks potato chips
Information: 812-278-6317 or find the business on Facebook
Names: Frank and Carolyn Ira
Ages: Frank is 61, and Carolyn is 56
Hometowns: Frank is from Bedford and graduated from high school in 1971, and Carolyn is a Brownstown native and graduated in 1977
Occupation: Owners of Back Porch Ice Cream in Brownstown; Frank has worked at Evans Limestone Co. for 44 years, now serving as general manager; Carolyn has worked at Brownstown Central High School for 33 years as a special education teacher
Family: Children, Robin Lemieux, David (Wendy) Ira, Kayti (Lance) Adams and Sarah Burke; five grandchildren and another one on the way