For the Porter family, a truly good summer means a trip to the beach. Their favorite part is taking a stroll along the boardwalk, peeking into the perfect little pastel whitewashed shops and stopping for an ice cream treat. Classic flavors tease them from behind the glass counter, metal scoops ready to plop a mound of ice cream on a waffle cone, root beer floats flowing. Those are the moments they dream of all year.
At home, they always missed the feeling, the nostalgic atmosphere of a mom and pop ice cream shop serving the real deal, creamy ice cream. It had been Melanie Porter’s dream for years to recreate that family experience, so she did it herself.
“I always thought, gosh, what a happy industry to be in,” Melanie said. “It’s just pure joy.”
So now, amongst the strip plazas and the buzz of cars zipping along Orange Avenue, things slow down just a bit where, out of an ordinary parking lot, pops up a charming little cottage called Lu Lu’s Ice Cream Shop. It’s almost something out of a fairy tale, with its wavy yellow siding and multi-colored pastel shingles. Homemade flowers and birds decorate the walls, putting Lu Lu’s in its own garden, and intricate shutters frame the spot where a Porter family member greets customers. Customers tell them a trip there is something they haven’t experienced since they were children. People stop to take photos in front of the shop, and can’t help but get some ice cream too.
“We definitely wanted something that nobody else had,” said Mark Porter, Melanie’s husband. “Nothing is quite like this.”
Mark, who is an engineer, built Lu Lu’s himself. Through the window, you nearly always find Melanie or her 11-year-old daughter Ava LaRue “Lu Lu” Porter dishing out the ice cream. There are, of course, traditional flavors like vanilla and strawberry, but also specialty ones such as birthday cake and bananas foster. Melanie wanted to find a manufacturer right in her city, so all the ice cream is from the Orlando Ice Cream Company brand made in Orlando by Muse Gelato. All the ingredients are local and organic when possible. The dairy products all come from a Florida farm in Myakka City just a couple of hours away.
“We actually went to the farm and met the cow that made our ice cream,” said Brandon Moss, Muse’s vice president.
In the birthday cake flavor, there’s cake and frosting made in house by Muse. The bananas foster has homemade sauce and the fruits and fruit juices used are often from Florida farms. The ice creams are all made in small batches and pasteurized from scratch, which gives Moss and his wife control over the intensity of the flavors. Lu Lu’s gets the ice cream delivered weekly.
Lu Lu’s Ice Cream Shop is located at 1111 S. Orlando Ave. in Winter Park, where you can spot the little yellow cottage in the Eat More Produce parking lot. They serve ice cream and non-dairy sorbet. Lu Lu’s is closed Mondays, but has hours the rest of the week, which can be found on their Facebook page at facebook.com/Lulusicecreamshop
“We assure you’re getting something that’s fresh,” Mark said.
Ava loves that in their ice cream, you can see the chunks of fruit, and that the colors customers see are from the ingredients; nothing is artificial.
“At many ice cream places you don’t see the flavor,” she said. “You can tell that it’s freshly made.”
Because the family runs the business themselves, and it doesn’t cost much to power their little cottage, it’s possible for them to serve the premium ice cream that they do. Not only that, they serve it at an affordable price for families. A single scoop of ice cream costs just $1.75, and the most expensive item they have — a banana split — is $5. Melanie’s goal was to make a fun family outing that many times costs $30 for a family of four, and bring it down to $10. So those nights where a whole family takes a bike ride down to Lu Lu’s for a treat can happen a lot more often.
And for Melanie, it’s been a great way to bring her family together. Many weekends, you can find Ava “Lu Lu” herself scooping ice cream or giving tours to her Glenridge Middle School friends of the one-room shop.