An ice-cream business with a goal of offering opportunities to people with special needs is getting ready to expand into South Asheville.

Pete and Betsy Brewer, who live in Biltmore Park, have set their sights on South Asheville for a future location of Howdy Homemade Ice Cream. Founded in Texas by Tom Landis, Howdy became has of the state’s top employers of special needs workers.

“We started Howdy Homemade Ice Cream to provide a fulfilling career for our daughter as well as other members of Asheville’s special needs community,” Pete Brewer said. “The special needs community has an unemployment rate in excess of 80% which is a shame because this segment of our population is full of potential—potential that we plan to leverage to build a successful business.”

The Brewers moved to Asheville in 2008 with their two daughters, Madeline and Annie. Annie, a junior at T.C. Roberson High School, also has autism.

The Brewers wanted to create a landing spot for Annie and other special needs adults in this community, so they decided to take ownership and start a business.

All-inclusive ice cream business

While the focal point of this business is helping his daughter, Pete discovered a passion for making ice cream and Betsy has reconnected with her food service industry roots—making Howdy Homemade a win-win-win for the family.

Even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brewers are still on track to open the first Howdy location in Asheville in 2021. They’re still on the hunt for a site, but they’re planning to open in South Asheville near their Biltmore Park home.

“As we share our plans for Howdy Homemade with friends and neighbors, the positive response from the Asheville community has been heart-warming and energizing,” Pete Brewer said. “We believe that every human being strives to pursue happiness. Our goal is better enable that pursuit for all members of our society.”

Once the site is selected, there’s still plenty to do on the front end, even though the business has already been established. The Brewers will work with special education experts to smooth the training process and help employees achieve a sense of independence.

“Once I flew to Dallas, Texas, to meet Tom Landis and his employees, we knew that Howdy Homemade was the ideal fit for our entrepreneurial aspirations here in Asheville,” Pete Brewer said.

The business model is particularly inclusive for people with special needs who are provided with myriad ways to interact with the business.

Workers can choose a public facing role and take orders and cash — each price is rounded to the nearest whole dollar to make counting a breeze — or they can clean or work in the back helping with production.

“Our store will be very inclusive in terms of accommodating employees with various physical and neurological challenges,” Pete Brewer said. “While some employees with the requisite communication skills will serve in customer-facing roles, other job responsibilities will be available for employees who we envision growing into customer-facing roles over time.”

Though Howdy Homemade relies on dozens of proprietary recipes created by the original owner Tom Landis, Brewer has developed some of his own recipes and he has reached out to his neighbors to perfect them.

The Brewers now have a commercial-grade ice cream machine in their garage, and the neighbors reap the benefits, taking their tasting jobs as seriously as professional food critics.

“Our human resource management philosophy will hinge on one three-letter word—yet,” Pete Brewer said. “A particular employee may not be able to accomplish a given task YET, but with competent training, coupled with patience and empathy, we hope to help all of our employees expand their skill-sets over time.”

Call 828-747-9174 for questions about employment at Howdy Homemade Ice Cream.

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