Step inside the small shop at 2711 Fort Campbell Blvd., and on each white table is a sign, “Life is better with ice cream.”

Eric and Angel Engel, owners of Heather’s Homemade Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt, embrace that quote as they serve customers in their new brick-and-mortar location.

“It was a big leap for me,” Angel said about opening their shop May 29.

“We’ve kept the ice cream the same,” Eric said. “The way we make it is still the same. It’s the same flavors. We want to make sure we keep that. We don’t want to lose that.”

The beginning

The Engels’ business started in 2014 after buying an electric ice cream maker at a tag sale.

“My oldest daughter and I and my wife started making ice cream at home. We had some friends with a produce stand in Clarksville and thought we’d try to sell this stuff,” Eric said. “My daughter and I went down there for a few weekends and started selling it.”

Soon thereafter, Heather Engel was diagnosed with brain cancer and production stopped. After a 14-month battle, Heather died at age 12.

The Engels wanted to do something in Heather’s memory “to keep her name alive.”

“Since that was the last thing we were doing and she enjoyed it, we started the ice cream business back up and named it after her,” Eric said. “We let that be the inspiration that drives us forward.”

“She loved (making ice cream),” Angel said of Heather. “It was the coolest thing to her seeing how it churned. She loved mixing and churning it.”

In April 2016, the couple found a concessions trailer for sale in Upton, and the trailer was completely outfitted for homemade ice cream, including the churns.

“God really was like ‘OK, let’s do this,’ and plopped it in our laps,” Angel said. “Really, it was just a God thing.”

The Engels started taking their homemade ice cream to local festivals and events and the popularity of their product grew. About 18 months later, they bought a second, 20-foot trailer for their business.

“Once again, it was a God thing. It just so happened to be my favorite color yellow,” she said. “We spent the winter and spring getting it ready. We finally started using it in July or August last year.”

The Engels set up their large trailer on Fort Campbell Boulevard next to Burger King and took their smaller one to Oak Grove several days a week last summer. At the end of last season, they took the large trailer home, but two weeks later, it burned in an electrical fire.

“Since it was hooked up to our house, it had flipped the breakers,” she said. “When he went to flip them back, they kept flipping. We knew something was wrong. He went out to the trailer. It had completely burned and snuffed itself out.”

The Engels had reached a crossroads in their business.

Brick-and-mortar

“That timing was around the same time that Tangy Roots closed,” Eric said.

“That was kind of the gateway for us after that was settled,” Angel said. “This (brick-and-mortar shop) was kind of our end dream, but we never thought we would be here now.”

They met with the Tangy Roots owners and “God worked it out,” Angel said.

With the new purchase, Angel and Eric wanted to transform the location to represent their family and their business.

“Teal was Heather’s favorite color,” Angel said. “Then, we wanted to tie in yellow for our food trailers, which is funny because that’s my favorite color.”

With suggestions from Henry and Cathy Hoover of Traveler’s Lantern Market, and their daughter, Darla, they included daisies and string art throughout the store.

“We had a slew of volunteers to help us paint,” she said. “I love it. I love the way it turned out. It took a lot of volunteer hours.”

One of the highlights of the location is a Cure Childhood Cancer mural painted by local artist Amy Peters, depicting three children flying yellow ribbon kites.

“She just went above and beyond anything I could have imagined with that mural. It’s absolutely beautiful,” Angel said. “The tallest girl is Heather. The middle boy, his name is Kaydyn. He passed away in 2017. The littlest girl, her name is Ayla ... She’s doing pretty well.”

More options

Although they still have the small trailer to transport their homemade ice cream to local events and festivals, the Engels said they have been able to keep their original products and expand the menu at their shop.

“When we were in the trailer, you are limited because of space and electrical and water,” Eric said. “There are a lot of constraints. So, you’ve got to keep it basic and simple. Here, we’ve expanded to shakes, floats, banana splits, sundaes and frozen yogurt, too.”

They now have three frozen yogurt machines in which they make six flavors.

“Just to appeal to a broader audience,” he said of frozen yogurt. “For those people who can’t eat ice cream or it’s unhealthy or they don’t like it, we’ve expanded our menu tremendously.”

“But, a lot of people still come in specifically for the ice cream,” Angel added.

While Angel operates the front counter, Eric is behind the scenes mixing and creating ice cream from scratch — the old-fashioned way.

“We just use the basic, simple ingredients you would make if you were at home,” he said. “Milk, cream, sugar, salt, lemon juice, vanilla flavoring. That’s our base. We don’t put food coloring and dyes in it. Our mint chocolate chip is white which throws people off because they are looking for green ice cream. Things like that, it sets it apart.”

Each batch of ice cream makes roughly five gallons or about two tubs of ice cream.

“Homemade ice cream is a lost art. The next generation of young people, they are not used to having real, slow-churned ice cream,” he said. “There’s a lot of work involved. It used to be everyone did this. It’s now a niche. It’s very manual, heavy lifting. You have to have a good recipe, if you don’t you’ll be like everyone else.”

The Engels offer more than 13 flavors of ice cream, but both agree that banana-flavored ice cream is still their best seller.

“Banana. Over the course of our business, banana has been our No. 1 seller,” Angel said.

“Nowadays, it’s hard to find banana ice cream anywhere,” Eric said. “It’s not commercially made. A lot of ice cream shops don’t carry it.”

Year-round homemade ice cream flavors are chocolate, vanilla, mint chocolate chip, cookies ‘n’ cream, chocolate chip cookie dough, butterscotch-Heath and coffee. Among the seasonal flavors are peach, caramel-maple-praline, strawberry and pumpkin spice.

Heather’s Homemade Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt is open from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and closed Sunday. For more information, call 270-498-9433 or visit the Facebook page @heathershomemadeicecream.

“It was meant to be,” Angel said. “God’s just been with us every step of the way. I’m excited.”

Reach Michele Vowell at 270-887-3242 or mvowell@kentuckynewera.com.

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