Allen’s Creamery & CoffeeHouse has been the destination for family outings, playdates and first dates since it opened its doors in downtown Windermere in 2008. But all that’s left will be memories when the ice cream shop closes its doors after the Friday, Sept. 22, Food Truck Night.
Brothers Matt and Mark Allen and their wives, Amy and Anne, respectively, are the owners of the popular business, and have loved being in the heart of the town and its activities for so long.
The Allens were saddened to share the news of their closing on their Facebook page last week.
“When we opened the shop over 15 years ago, our goal was to offer this wonderful community a local ice cream shop much like the one we grew up with,” they posted. “Hopefully, we accomplished this! … We hope we have provided as many happy memories to families and friends of our community as you have provided for us. The fond thoughts of the many events and milestones here will forever live in our hearts.”
‘A FUN PLACE FOR PEOPLE TO GATHER’
When the Allens were looking to open a business downtown, their initial thought was to use the building as a real estate office.
“We decided to get into the food business,” Matt Allen said. “We grew up in a very small town in upstate New York and just wanted to replicate the ice cream shop we grew up with and that was kind of the premise of it. … We ended up opening our real estate office across the street.”
Ice cream was the easiest option in the food business, he said.
“It was a vision for us to provide a fun place for people to gather because at that time … there wasn’t a whole lot of anything down here and the thought was to bring families down here and to help with the schools and be a partner with them and do events.”
The owners recently hosted a book-signing event for Dr. Gregor Alexander, the famed NICU physician who befriended Matt and Amy Allen when their son, Ashton, was born 17 weeks early.
Allen’s Creamery has been the site of many birthday parties and family gatherings. On the shop’s Facebook page, folks responded with dozens of memories of time spent sharing ice cream with loved ones at Allen’s Creamery.
Mary Phillips thanked the Allens on the shop’s Facebook page for giving her her first job.
Others thanked them for providing the setting for so many wonderful memories with family and friends.
Soon after the ice cream shop opened its doors, Shelley Ball Bradford and her husband, Darren Aklan, went to Allen’s after playing volleyball at the church across the street.
“We thought, ‘What can we do that’s quick?’” Bradford said. “He said, ‘How about ice cream?’ so we went there, and we sat there and talked for several hours. When I told him last night, he said, ‘Oh, we have to go back.’ Every time I drive by, I think, ‘That’s where we sat.’”
The couple intends to go back one more time before the business closes so she can order her mint chocolate chip and he can get his vanilla ice cream.
“It was just this quaint little place, and I feel like they’re disappearing, and it’s kind of sad,” Bradford said.
Erin Deniz and her friend Kalyn Reoples frequently set up summer playdates for their children, Olivia Deniz and Finn Staples. The 7-year-old best friends like going to the Windermere Library to check out books before stopping by Allen’s Creamery for Superman ice cream.
“They get their own table, the high-top table,” Deniz said. “We get relegated to the couches, and they can talk about whatever they want.”
The ice cream shop was one of the first places Olivia visited after she was born.
Meredith Gaylord and her husband, Scott, have four children, and each one had a scheduled birth, so the couple made it a tradition to go to Allen’s for ice cream — soft-serve chocolate for her and Moose Tracks for him — the night before the baby was born.
“I think it was just our special place,” Gaylord said. “My husband and I found it walking through downtown even before we had kids. It was cute and quaint and had character. When we had kids, it was their first time having ice cream.”
The Gaylords now live in Maitland and will drive to Windermere one more time to indulge in some Allen’s Creamery ice cream, including sherbet for the 5-year-old and Superman for the 7-, 10- and 12-year-olds.
“I haven’t even told our kids yet,” she said. “They’re going to be devastated.”
Elizabeth Belcher is another mom who is planning a final ice cream date with her children.
“We used to ride our bikes there when we lived in Gotha,” she said. “We would leave Gotha in the morning on a Saturday or after school, if the weather wasn’t too hot. … They loved the bubble gum ice cream; they always liked the bright-colored stuff. Everyone was just so nice. It was nice to be able to relax after school.”
Jayden Belcher and Amiah Belcher were in elementary school when the tradition started, and they now are 22 and 21, respectively.
Elizabeth Belcher’s final order will be banana or classic vanilla ice cream, although she recalls occasionally ordering the blue ice cream because it reminded her of the Smurf ice cream she used to get at Kings Island as a child.
“It was just such a good feeling going in there,” she said of Allen’s. “It was just a nostalgic feeling in that store. It always felt good to go there. And it was always nice to sit outside on their patio and enjoy the weather and people watch.”
The Allens said they are touched by the positive comments people have been sharing.
“I read one: ‘I used to bring my grandkids here, and it used to be our little hiding spot,’” Matt Allen said. “Dads would come here to bond, and moms would bring their kids. That means more to us … because I remember after playing baseball our parents would take us to the ice cream shop. Those memories will last forever.”
The ice cream establishment had its share of regulars, including Roger Tome, the father-in-law of Windermere Mayor Jim O’Brien. Tome loved getting ice cream and sitting on a bench near the front of the building. When he died in 2014, the Allens added a plaque to the bench in Tome’s memory.
FROM BUBBLEGUM TO BUTTER PECAN
Children tend to go for the brightest ice cream flavors in the freezer, so the Allens made sure to stock plenty of Superman, Smurf, Bubblegum and C is for Cookie. The shop also was known for its milkshakes.
Through the years, the Allens tried to venture beyond regular ice cream. They offered nitrogen ice cream for a while, as well as doughnuts, barbecue and sandwiches, but Matt Allen said the pandemic forced them to start fresh and concentrate solely on ice cream.
No matter what they sold, the customers always came back for the ice cream.
“I think it was an easy place that you could walk to,” Matt Allen said. “We never did any advertising; it was always word-of-mouth advertising, and I think it was comfortable and a place where people could gather to socialize. … We were just that hangout spot.”
The popularity of Allen’s wasn’t limited to the younger crowd, either. Older generations frequented the shop — and usually with some requests that reminded them of their own younger years.
“Somebody wanted Rum Raisin, so we got it for him,” Matt Allen said. “Or they want malt in their milkshakes. I’ve had people come in and ask for root beer floats. We started carrying root beer for floats. … If somebody said they wanted something, we tried to find a way to accommodate that.”
Pistachio and Spumone have been requested, and there always is Cookies & Cream and other popular flavors such as Chocolate and Strawberry.
“We’re an ice cream shop; nobody should have a bad experience here,” Matt Allen said. “People should come here and get what they want. Quality service and quality products are what we offer.”
Every once in a while, some brave person tried the 11-scoop Allen’s Challenge, originally called the Allen’s Chain of Lakes Challenge because of the 11 lakes in the chain.
“It was around the time they were doing a lot of food challenges, and we were trying to come up with something fun and to promote,” Matt Allen said.
Anyone who finished 11 scoops of ice cream in 15 minutes received an Allen’s T-shirt.
“We’ve given away so many T-shirts,” he said. “It’s beyond me how people can finish these. I’ve never tried it; I never want to. … People have tried and succeeded, and lots have tried and failed.”
As much as Allen’s sold ice cream, it also was a valued partner in the community and offered discounts or free treats and hosted many community events.
Allen’s has hosted Halloween and Christmas events for years. The shop has offered $1 ice cream to students and created 60 premade ice cream treats for classes at Holy Family Catholic Church. Students and their parents made regular visits after school.
“We’ve always done that type of thing,” Matt Allen said.
Windermere Mayor Jim O’Brien moved to Windermere the same year Allen’s opened, and he recalled the annual Day of Civics for Windermere Elementary School fifth-graders. Students walked to downtown Windermere to visit with town officials, learn about the town’s history and eat some ice cream at Allen’s.
“They’ve been a big supporter through the years,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien recalled the day Windermere Police Officer Robbie German was killed in the line of duty and how quick the Allens were to offer support.
“That happened very early in the morning, and, of course, we had a lot of people at the police station — town staff, town council, residents, officers,” O’Brien said. “It happened at like 3 in the morning; we were still there at like 5 or 6 in the morning. I called (the Allens) and they came in and got us coffee and doughnuts.
“I think they brought all of the doughnuts over,” he said.
The mayor made his own memories with his family through the years. He and his wife, Kristin, took their children, Jacob, now 22, and Emily, 16, for scoops of Rum Raisin, Strawberry, Heavenly Hash, Superman and Cookies & Cream.
“What a fantastic little business that truly has a heart in our community,” O’Brien said. “They’ve just been a total asset, and we loved having them. It’s sad to see the chapter close. … We’re going to miss them.”
The Allens will continue to focus on their commercial and residential real estate business.
“We thought about relocating, but not at this time,” Matt Allen said. “We had had offers to expand and whatnot, but the idea wasn’t to get rich off this business. It was to give to the community. It wasn’t a plan to expand like a franchise.”
As they wrap up their final month offering ice cream and community to downtown Windermere, the Allens want everyone to know how grateful they are for the kind words and memories.
“It’s been an honor to feel the support,” Matt Allen said. “We’ve all said we’re sad – we’re sad-happy to at least hear from the community all these wonderful stories and the pictures.”
The building at 528 Main St. and the one next to it will be torn down to make room for a new project that will include restaurants, retail and office space.