After working as an engineer for 10 years, Jim Ingram decided to listen to the “entrepreneurial voices in his head” and start his own business – and ice cream seemed like the logical choice.  

After all, Jim’s father had spent his life in ice cream working at Hood and Howard Johnson’s, and he was a key contributor to the success of Mt. Tom’s Ice Cream in Easthampton.  

Connecting Point Producer Dave Fraser brings us the scoop. 

Read the full transcript:

Jim Ingram: I decided to do something different and I had a lot of thought about what that might be, and I just sort of landed me in ice cream, because I had all this engineering background. It just didn’t seem like something I should do, but it’s something I wanted to do.

So, you know, this is my chance to do something different. I give it five years if it doesn’t work, yeah, it was good experience is something I can write stories about and go back to engineering and do something else.

When I decided to do my own ice cream shop, I had this image in my head of what mine would look like, and it was old fashioned hardwood floors, high tin ceilings, that kind of thing. And I had a friend out here in Western Mass, I told her what I was thinking about doing and she said, “Oh, I know a guy.”

And the next morning I came by to look at it and I looked in the window and as soon as I saw it, I just knew this was the space. Not really being from this town. I didn’t think it would be available. I thought it would be 15 different things called Mount Tom’s, and there really wasn’t.

So, it just made sense and my friend came up with a really cool logo to go with it, and now people don’t even have to say Mt. Tom’s Homemade Ice Cream, they just say Mt. Tom’s. And, I guess the one downside is a lot of people call me Tom, but I answer to it because…ha!

When I first found this place, I –what I had to do is build a kitchen in the back. It was just a basically a dark closet, so I bought all the equipment.

The main main thing to make ice cream is a batch freezer. And the one I have is a 20 quart batch freezer. So, basically it makes two of the buckets in my shop. It’s basically five gallons at a time.

So, you take the raw mix, add flavoring to it, and put into this batch freezer. And what it does is it slowly turns it and freezes it till it gets to a point of around twenty eight degrees, kind of like soft serve consistency. Then, it will come out of the barrel and I’ll add other ingredients to it and then put into what’s called a hardening cabinet, a glass freezer. And that overnight will freeze it to 20 below zero to get rid of all the ice crystals, make it super creamy and great.

And then the next morning, you actually warm it up and it’s ready to serve. A lot of the the flavors that have a pretty traditional, ones that I’ve started. I have about forty-five flavors that I have all the time.

Cookie dough, chocolate chip, pistachio, other things, you’d expect in an old-fashioned candy store. The new and special flavors that I make, I have a rotating amount — number of flavors, probably close to two hundred at this point.

Pretty normal stuff and some more adventurous flavors like lavender, rose and cardamom, strawberry basil, things that not everybody would want, but the things that people would look at the menu and say, “oh, that’s interesting. I really want to try that.”

Ideas for flavors come from a lot of different places. Sometimes, I’ll just see it. I’ll be in a checkout line and I’ll see dark chocolate with almond and sea salt candy bar. I can make an ice cream flavor out of that. Or have we have a suggestion jar in the shop.

Typical customer, I just usually describe as sort of kids of all ages. It’s all ranges, really. Anybody who likes ice cream.

When I was a kid, I used to go to an old-fashioned candy store in my hometown and my parents would take us there when we were good or sick or something. And the memories I have of that are so positive.

To be able to be that for people and families now is just awesome. And that’s why I look forward to coming to work every day.