New Ice Cream Shop in Plano Innovates Amid Pandemic
As former executives at Cicis, a restaurant chain with Plano roots, Craig Moore and Donnie Robertson know a thing or two about building a strong brand.
In December, along with fellow DFW natives Jennifer Stallons and Kimberly Sherburne, they opened the Metroplex’s first Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream in Little Elm. Handel’s was founded in Ohio in 1945 and with locations coast-to-coast now, opened March 5 in Plano at 4200 Legacy Drive.
However, as that was when COVID-19 started gaining traction in DFW and dining inside restaurants was soon after prohibited, Handel’s quickly shifted to take-out.
The Plano location’s drive-through window became extra important. In Little Elm, which doesn’t have drive-through service, they started curbside service with employees scooping ice cream into cones or cups.
“We figured out fast we were going to have to get incredibly good at curbside, call-ins and take-out,” Donnie said. “And we had to innovate on social media to inform and educate people on how we were doing things safely, how they could trust us.
“All those little innovations made us better as a team. Our guests are so supportive. I can’t believe how supportive they were. It’s like they still wanted to be able to go do something normal that they enjoyed for a moment or two. We provide that,” he said.
With its checkerboard tile and open feel, Handel’s vibe resembles a 1950s’ soda fountain with some modern touches. Each location offers at least 48 flavors of handmade, premium ice cream from fresh ingredients.
Some noteworthy flavor names include Graham Central Station (graham-flavored ice cream with a graham cracker ripple and chocolate covered crunchies) and Spouse Like a House (malted vanilla ice cream, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ripple and chocolate covered pretzels).
“Dallas doesn’t have a lot of what I call premium, high-quality, homemade ice cream, so it is a different treat,” Craig said. “That’s our niche.”
Handel’s mantra of “We Never Skimp” means customers get plenty of value for their money.
“We don’t skimp [on] the amount of ingredients, the scoops,” Donnie said. “Our single has three and a half scoops, our double has four and a half. We try to really make it way more than you expect so you get a great value and a great experience.”
Besides offering ice cream in cones or cups, Handel’s sells hand-packed pints and quarts, sundaes, banana splits, a four-scoop sampler, shakes, floats, fountain sodas, smoothies, the Hurricane (ice cream with toppings) and the Handel Pop (ice cream on a stick dipped in dark chocolate).
In August, Handel’s will expand to Flower Mound and McKinney with Frisco on the immediate horizon.
Amid the recent coronavirus surge in Texas, Handel’s has doubled its efforts to keep employees and customers safe.
“The one way to deal with it is to make your employees feel safe and then ultimately build trust with the guests. That’s what we’re striving for,” Donnie said. “We’ve got to be ruthless and relentless because we can’t afford to make a mistake. That trust is continuing to build. We see it in our sales. They’re growing. Trust is the key thing.”Handel's Homemade Ice Cream >