Ice Cream Shop Adds Flavor to Detroit Neighborhood

by Ellen Lee on August 23, 2011

Detroit’s Eastern Market bustles with funky retail stores, a farmer’s market, and live music on Saturdays. But as Brittney Mabry and her family strolled through the popular outdoor shopping district in 90-degree weather one afternoon last summer, they realized that it didn’t have an ice cream shop. 

Mabry’s mother, Chris Kelley, and sister Leslie Hayden had planned to open a garden-supply store but decided to change course and open the district’s first ice cream store. They threw themselves into renovating a space in a historic building on Russell Street, spending $30,000 to refurbish it. The end result: a homey ice cream shop painted in pastels, gleaming hardwood floors and cow and ice cream-themed decor. 

Mootown Creamery, which launched in May, features a selection of Michigan-made ice creams from the Hudsonville Creamery & Ice Cream Company. Popular flavors get their names from Michigan landmarks, such as Mackinac Island Fudge (a blend of butter fudge, chocolate fudge, and vanilla ice cream) and Sleeping Bear Dunes Bear Hug (chocolate ice cream with chocolate-covered cashews and caramel). Mootown also sells Michigan’s Faygo Pop soda and Detroit’s Better Made Chips, as well as handmade cards, slippers, and bags crafted by Mabry’s grandmother, a line called Divine Designs.

Before opening Mootown, Hayden ran a daycare and Mabry, and her mother worked in customer service. “We really wanted to go into business as a family,” said Mabry, who is also a full-time student at Rochester College. She plans to graduate in December. “It’s an opportunity for us to be together.”

The economy hasn’t been pretty in Detroit, where job loss has been especially high compared with the rest of the nation. Detroit’s unemployment rate in June was 13.7 percent, far above the nation’s rate of 9.2 percent.

But Mootown Creamery has been drawing customers and buzz. Food blog Eat It Detroit called it “a perfect post-pizza destination for a summertime snack,” and more than 300 fans have already joined its Facebook page.

Mootown Creamery is also not the only newcomer in the neighborhood. Mabry, whose family has lived in Detroit for some 40 years, said she’s hopeful about the city’s future. “I think Detroit is getting ready to make a really big comeback,” she said. “Hopefully, this is the start for something great for Detroit.”