CAMILLUS, N.Y. (NCC News) – Ben and Kristin Hussong used to take their four young kids for ice cream after Little League baseball games. When their favorite, and the only, local shop closed down in 2019, they were left without options. So, they took matters into their own hands.
Charlee’s Ice Cream, named for nine-year-old Charlotte “Charlee” Hussong opened on Kasson Road off of West Genesee Street in Camillus on Mar. 27. It’s the only ice cream shop in town.
Ben wears many hats. He operates a financial planning firm, an insurance agency, a small non-profit organization, a podcast and coaches youth sports on the side. He’s not averse to the risk of starting a new business, but he was too busy to run this new business. His wife, Kristin, left a 14-year nursing career to run the shop full-time.
“We assigned roles and the roles are she is Mario and I am Luigi,” Ben said.
When it came time to turn the idea into a real business, it quickly became a family affair.
“We loaded the kids in the car one day and started driving up and down West Genesee Street writing down phone numbers for any sign we could find for commercial real estate. Kept going in that regard until we found this place and it was a bank. And we looked at it, and if you had seen it when it was a bank it was hard to envision this,” he said.
Ben and Kristin’s four kids, aged eight to 11, have been involved in the shop since its inception. They chose the majority of the menu, picking flavors from Buffalo-based ice cream company Perry’s catalog. They also help their parents run the shop, with each kid taking on a different responsibility.
The oldest, Marty, spends the least amount of time in the shop as he goes to school in Buffalo, but when he’s in the shop, he’s the expert milkshake maker. The youngest, Brett, prefers to play in the dirt outside the shop. When he’s in the shop, he mans the sink where he washes both his hands and the dirty dishes. The twins, Charlee and Connor, could not be more different. Charlee is quiet and reserved, keeping to herself while she piles scoops of ice cream on top of cones. Connor is boisterous and amped with energy, speaking to every customer that comes into the shop. He takes orders at the register and mans the bank teller-turned-drive-thru-window.
Because the kids play such an important role in the shop’s management, Ben and Kristin have used working with them as a parenting opportunity. And Ben has high expectations.
“If they’re here, they’re held to expectations, even down to my eight-year-old. He had a night where instead of washing dishes he was playing in the sink, and we ended up falling behind and we had to have a very stern conversation about – ‘Look, you’re part of the team here. You have a job like everybody else and when you don’t do your job it affects other people.’ So, I think it’s been great to teach them the value of why you have to work hard, why the little things matter,” he said.
That commitment to teaching her kids the right values is why Kristin left her nursing career entirely for Charlee’s.
“I felt like if I was going to do this, I really needed to give it my all and it was important for me to show my kids that if you’re gonna do something you do it all the way,” she said.
Charlee’s Ice Cream is open seven days a week from noon to 8 p.m.