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Donald Lambert, a retired colonel, decided to turn his 25-year love affair with ice cream into a business. He opened up shop at Friendly Market in Florence. (Photo by A. Hemmerle)
FLORENCE, Ky. - Fresh off a victory in the Iron Scoop competition in St. Louis, a Kentucky colonel is turning his hobby into a business.
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FLORENCE, Ky. - When Donald Lambert opened the doors to The Colonel's Creamery just three months ago, he had no idea he would be winning the first annual Iron Scoop Competition in November.
At a seminar during National Ice Cream Retailers Association's (NICRA) 80th annual meeting in St. Louis, Lambert was randomly selected to be on the “blue team," one of two teams competing.
“You know how sometimes when you’re in a random drawing and you’re like ‘pick me, pick me?’ I had that kind of thought going on. So when they drew my name I was pleasantly surprised,” Lambert said.
Teams were composed of two veteran ice cream makers and three first-time meeting attendees, who may or may not have ever made ice cream before.
Each team had 10 minutes to come up with a new ice cream flavor. There were 16 ingredients offered, and each team had to use at least three--plus a mystery ingredient: waffle cone pieces.
Lambert’s team came up with the Lunch Ladies’ Special. A combination of peanut butter, strawberry, two complementary vanilla flavors and the waffle cone pieces that ultimately stole the judges’ votes.
The red team came up with the Dolce di NICRA, a coffee and caramel flavor mixed with the waffle cone pieces.
According to Lynda Utterback, NICRA executive director, the Lunch Ladies’ Special simply had a better flavor and tasted better.
Scores were based on a one to five scale in the following categories: Creativity, taste and sell-ability. Potential bonus points were also up for grabs, depending on how creatively teams used the secret ingredient.
“We were encouraged to be vocally enthusiastic. We were cheering, and every now and again the emcee would poke in on what we were talking about,” said Lambert, “I love spontaneous innovation and the opportunity to express that.”
Lambert and his fellow teammates will see their names carved into two giant, crossed ice cream scoops that will forever bear their names as the winners of the first annual Iron Scoop Competition.
An ice cream dream
Lambert did not start out to sell ice cream professionally. He was a radio broadcaster and is Kentucky Colonel, an honor bestowed by the governor for "strength of character, leadership and dedication to the welfare of others." He went back to school late in life, and graduated from Northern Kentucky University just seven months ago.
Through it all one passion has always stayed with him: ice cream.
Lambert has been making his own ice cream for about 25 years as a hobby, but became serious about it 15 years ago. He started making ice cream in his own kitchen for his friends and family, creating one of a kind flavors on a whim. While he was a student at NKU he even created a Nutella Swirl ice cream for his classmates.
However, it was when his daughter told him about the Friendly Market being developed in Florence, that he saw a way to turn his love of ice cream into a viable business.
Lambert approached Friendly Market's Jack Berberich, about his idea of an ice cream shop in the Friendly Market. At first, there was talk of the colonel managing a shop selling Chaney’s Ice Cream made in Bowling Green, Ky.
But Lambert wanted his own shop, and he got it--now leasing a space at the newly opened market.
“What I had in mind was to bring in as many products that were made in Kentucky and that were Kentucky proud products,” Berberich said.
The FDA holds ice cream to high standards, ranking it as economy, regular, premium or super premium. In order for ice cream makers to call their ice cream super premium it must have a higher fat content and a higher quality of ingredients.
Colonel’s Creamery fit the FDA's guidelines, putting him in good company: Graeters, Haagen Dazs and Cold Stone are all considered "super premium" ice creams.
Lambert prides himself on natural ingredients.
“People might be surprised when they see that the Pistachio flavored ice cream is white and not the usual green, but that’s how it is naturally,” he said.
Lambert also prides himself on being innovative; having the ability to develop new flavors within a day and half His newest flavors are mango, Irish crème, rum raisin and the Colonel's darn hot brown.
Lambert hopes to enter into the Kentucky State Fair, the Boone County Fair, and other NICRA competitions.
“I revel on competition, I just love competition,” he chuckled.
As far as the business goes, he doesn’t let the attention or his Iron Scoop title derail his goals. As a start-up business, he just wants more day-to-day traffic.
“We have a ways to go before we are a mature business,” Lambert said.
For now, Lambert continues working at the shop creating confectionery delights for the crowds that trickle into the Friendly Market.
If you see a man with a top hat and white beard behind the counter serving your ice cream, that’s Colonel Don.
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