Photo | Daniel Anderson/Lagniappe
Cammie Wayne’s Old Dutch creamery can produce about 1,000 gallons of ice cream per week, supplying retailers from Baton Rouge to Birmingham. The most popular flavor at her landmark shop in Midtown is Creole praline.
One could say Cammie Wayne has kept things churning at her sweet business for 20 years.
It was a no-fail attitude and strong work ethic that kept Wayne rolling as the new, 30-year-old owner of a landmark midtown ice cream parlor.
“I’m a hard worker. I work seven days a week. I enjoy working,” Wayne said. “So, it’s not so much a chore for me. I love it, I love doing it. As long as you’re a hard worker, you can basically do anything.”
Wayne had worked at Old Dutch Ice Cream Shoppe as a teenager and decided to purchase the business from her onetime boss, Edwin Widemire, in 1998. As she tells it, she was in the store one day and Widemire told her he was going to sell and she said she’d buy it.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” Wayne said. “It was like ‘OK, let’s do this.’ I bought a business at the age of 30. I guess complete desperation for the first 10 years is what made me make it.”
When Wayne first took over, the shop’s ice cream was made and delivered by Dairy Fresh, which limited the number of flavors.
“You bought what they sold,” she said. “It was to our recipe, but they only made so many.”
Eventually, Wayne decided to start making the ice cream in the shop using a 12 percent butterfat base from a local dairy. In the beginning, she was forced to buy a set number of cases up front.
“I had to guarantee them I would buy 90 cases when I first started,” she said. “I was like ‘Oh my God, how can I do that? All this money.’”
Today, the shop goes through 200 cases per week, she said.
It is miles away from the shop at the corner of Old Shell Road and Florida Street that many of the important aspects of the business take place. With nothing but a small sign with the familiar Old Dutch logo to differentiate it from other big, manufacturing-style buildings, the interior of a former restaurant on Halls Mill Road is where Wayne and her husband, Larry, make the famous ice cream today.
Before opening the creamery last year, Wayne admits to not always getting the recommended amount of sleep. As she began producing for other ice cream shops and eventually grocery stores and other retailers, three hours of sleep per night was average for the shop owner.
“I was going to work at 9 o’clock in the morning and getting off at 3 a.m, crawling into bed, sleeping for three hours, and getting up and doing it again,” she said. “I just kept getting more and more customers and I thought, ‘I’ve either, I’ve got to do something. I’ve either got to take the plunge and find myself a business, or I’m going to kill myself working these hours.’”
It started with calls from small shop owners, like Matt Lumpkin of Matt’s Handmade Ice Cream in Gulf Shores. Lumpkin, who owns two shops on Gulf Shores Parkway and sees about 1,000 people per day during the summer, said Wayne is “awesome to work with.”
“She lets us come up with our own flavors,” he said. “She’ll customize any order with me.”
Lumpkin said he sells about 70 to 80 flavors between the two shops and loves to customize his orders. Among the shop’s best, most creative flavors are lemon icebox, peanut butter Oreo and Cookie Monster, which is a blue vanilla ice cream with chocolate chip cookie and Oreo pieces.
“She’s great with whatever I want,” Lumpkin said.
Lumpkin and Wayne agree that Matt’s is probably her biggest account during the busy summer months.
“June, July and August, we absolutely kill it,” Lumpkin said. “We’re open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. I’m working her to death.”
Lumpkin said he grew up on Old Dutch ice cream, so selling it at his own shop just seemed natural.
“It’s a great atmosphere and we’ve got a great product,” he said. “There are so many unique flavors.”
Wayne counts Mr. Mac’s Soda Shoppe inside of McConaghy’s Drug Store in Satsuma among her original vendors. Jessica White, business manager for the drug store, said the soda shop started in honor of the pharmacy’s original owner. It opened in 2011.
When the shop opened, White said she and a coworker began researching where to buy ice cream at wholesale prices. They talked to Blue Bunny first, but decided instead to go with a local small business.
“We thought if Cammie’s can do it, that’s awesome because we were both independent businesses,” she said. “It kind of rolled from there.”
The ice cream is popular, White said, whether a customer is familiar with Old Dutch or not.
“People in Satsuma who know Old Dutch come for the ice cream and people who are unfamiliar become familiar,” White said. “We love that it comes from someone we can meet and shake hands with.”
In addition to supplying the shop with ice cream for regular business, Wayne helps Mr. Mac’s with birthday parties.
The most popular Old Dutch flavor at Mr. Mac’s is the seasonal peach ice cream.
“That seems to be everyone’s favorite,” White said. “Cookies and cream is another.”
In addition to the ice cream for banana splits and sundaes, White said Mr. Mac’s serves up malted milk shakes and floats.
Wayne supplies ice cream as far west as Baton Rouge and as far north as Birmingham. It’s not just ice cream parlors, either, she said. A small gift shop in Demopolis called Mustard Seed is among Wayne’s customers. Old Dutch ice cream is served in a total of 32 shops.
Wayne also counts 17 grocery stores among her customers. Those include local chains like Greer’s, Piggly Wiggly and Food-Champs.
“I’ve got my eye on Rouses,” she said. “I’ve talked to them and my customers are asking them to carry it. That’s my next stop.”
Before the creamery was established, Wayne and her husband made each batch of ice cream in the back of the shop in a room she lovingly referred to as “the closet.”
“There was very limited space,” she said. “It was a little bitty room. You could fit two people in there, but barely. You were constantly bumping into each other, going around each other.”
The biggest issue with the limited space was falling behind as orders came in.
“I was frustrating my customers because I couldn’t get my flavors ready,” she said. “I’d leave at 2 a.m. on a Friday and the whole freezer would be full. By 5 o’clock Saturday, it was all gone and I’d be like ‘Oh my God, I have to go back in there again.’ It was just a constant, constant and I was frustrating some of the people who were my clients.”
In those days it was more labor intensive because the ice cream would come out hard and flavors would be added at the end of the process, Wayne said.
Now three machines at the back of the creamery churn out the product at a much faster pace, and flavors are introduced during the production. The two smaller machines can push out two 3-gallon tubs every 12 minutes and the machine known as “big mama” can produce four in the same timespan, Wayne said.
The facility also has everything else Wayne needs to produce ice cream.
“I come in here and I’ve got a walk-in freezer, I’ve got a cooler. I’ve got all the plumbing and electricity,” she said. “It was just like handed to me on a silver platter and I think that was God saying, ‘OK, here it is.’”
The building came with a kitchen and Wayne bought an oven, which has helped her cut some costs in half. Before the kitchen, she said she would buy a whole, square cake at about $5 for one batch of birthday cake ice cream. Now, she bakes her own cakes and brownies and other goods to go into the ice cream.
All in all, the new digs mean Old Dutch can produce about 1,000 gallons of ice cream per week on average and Wayne can get home at a slightly more reasonable time.
“We have had, like, four nights this summer where we were up here until midnight and that is like heaven,” she said. “We’re usually at home by 9. That’s great for us.”
It was Old Dutch’s flavor combinations that helped business early on, following the summer rush. Wayne created such seasonal flavors as pumpkin, eggnog and peppermint.
“Some of it was feast or famine,” Wayne said. “Some of it was you’re working over at the ice cream shop and your business is gone or has gone down so much because it’s wintertime and you’re thinking ‘my God I’ve got to get some people in here.’”
Other than vanilla, which is used at Old Dutch to make milkshakes and sundaes, Wayne said the shop’s most popular flavor is Creole praline.
“It’s a light butter pecan flavor and then a swirl of caramel, and my pralines are made at Tanner’s Pecans and I throw those in there,” she said. “They’re not a sugary praline. It’s more of a candied pecan. That is my best seller everywhere.”
It wasn’t a best seller at Maddie’s in Baton Rouge without the suggestion to the owner of a little tweak.
“I told him, I said ‘stop calling it Creole and call it pralines and cream,’” Wayne said. “He said ‘Cammie, I sold out.’ I guess being in Louisiana they thought it was going to be hot, using the word Creole. As soon as he took the Creole off, they sold it like crazy, out the door.”
Winter is when Wayne and staff members can get more creative with flavors, as demand for traditional varieties in the summer can consume most of their time. New flavors include Blue Moon, which Wayne described as tasting like Fruity Pebbles cereal, although there are no bits of cereal in it. There are some even more creative flavors.
“We made a corn ice cream,” Wayne said. “It didn’t go over too well, but we’re going to tweak it and bring it back. Maybe corn with cranberry through it, or something. That would interesting during Thanksgiving.”
Another popular flavor is uniquely Mobile. From New Year’s Day until Fat Tuesday, Old Dutch gets in the Mardi Gras spirit with MoonPie ice cream. With flavors including banana, chocolate, salted caramel and coconut, the sweet treat is a local favorite.
“It has MoonPies and then I swirl — some of them I swirl chocolate and some I swirl the marshmallow sauce,” she said. “The caramel has sort of a coffee taste to it and then the salted caramel MoonPies and then I swirl some caramel in there.”
The concept was inspired by Councilman Fred Richardson, who represents the neighborhood where Old Dutch is located. Wayne said she got the idea after the “MoonPie Over Mobile” event.
Richardson laughed at the shoutout from Wayne on the downtown event and said he’d never heard of MoonPie ice cream from the popular shop.
“It’s probably going to become my favorite,” he said. “That’s outstanding.”
Even though he admitted he needs to watch his weight, Richardson still enjoys a scoop of butter pecan at Old Dutch every once in a while. As for the shop itself, Richardson called it a “landmark in midtown.”
The shop is not only popular with midtowners, though. As Visit Mobile Marketing and Communications Manager Tara Zieman pointed out, businesses like Cammie’s help promote the city to tourists.
“Travelers want to get to know a city when they visit — they want to see the dive bars, the hole-in-the-wall spots and the local favorites,” she wrote. “It’s places like Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, the Dew Drop Inn and Cammie’s Old Dutch (to name a few) that give our visitors a sense of our city’s character. Travelers want authentic and they don’t mind going off the beaten path to get that experience.”