Emack & Bolio’s has become Peoria’s premier ice cream parlor. Inside of the store you’re greeted by four walls platered with fun rock & roll imagery and behind the counter there’s one of a kind candy, imported soft drinks you can’t find anywhere else, NY style egg cream sodas and of course the delicious, thick and rich Emack & Bolio’s ice cream presented in a number of unique flavors. I stopped by the store last week and talked with Tim Hennessey, one of the owners of the store, Jim Maxwell, the other owner is out on hip surgery leave and we wish him a speedy recovery. Here’s some photos of my visit along with a Q. and A. as we go Behind The Bucket List At Emack & Bolio’s!
I decided to start a tradition while I'm doing this "Behind The Bucket List" series and have the last business give me something that I can take to the next business on the list. Here's Amber and Danielle from last week's Behind the Bucket List at All Smiles Dental Care with a goodie bag for Emack & Bolio's. And they not only had a goodie bag to give...
Shaun made up a new set of novelty MBIP teeth for me! How cool is this? Okay, on to Emack & Bolio's for the Q. and A. section.
MBIP: When did Emack & Bolio’s open up?
Tim Hennessey: November of 2008—we opened an ice cream store in the winter, we decided to go against the odds! We opened our downtown riverfront store in July of 2012. By then we learned it might be a little more wise to open in the middle of summer rather than winter.
Do you remember your first customer?
Yep, it was a little girl named named Sophie. She came in with her mother right when we opened. I even remember what she had —Deep Purple Cow on a Reese's peanut butter waffle cone. She still comes in a lot with her family.
What made you and (business partner) Jim Maxwell decide to open up Emack’s in Peoria?
They are a very unique company. They don’t charge any kind of franchise fee or dictate how you should sell the product. It’s very small without any hassle from anyone telling you how they want it done, so it’s not like a chain store. The ice cream is very good and it is something you can't find everywhere you go. There are only about 20 shops in the country and that’s since 1974. We also have great hand-made chocolates that E&B makes that you can't find around here. It's real ice cream.
Early on, Steve Tarter wrote a nice article in the PJ Star about you, how did that help business?
God bless Steve Tarter! He did a fantastic article on the store and really got our name out to the area. That article was the turning point for our business. Steve is my hero.
Can people trick or treat your store on Halloween?
They sure can. We are open from noon until 10:30PM on the 31st. You better be good or you could get a rock in your bag
Do you have any crazy customer stories, you don’t have to name names!
Yes! Any time your working with the public you see some crazy things. The thing I like about selling ice cream and chocolates is that people are in a good mood and want to treat themselves to something nice. Its not like they have to go to the ice cream store like they have to go to the grocery store.
Both you and Jim have grandkids, does owning your own ice cream store automatically make you their favorite Grandpa?
I know Jim's grandkids think he is a God! My grandkids think its pretty cool. They think the coolest part of going to grandpa's store is to go down in the freezer and see all that ice cream down there. Plus its 20 below zero. That’s really cool!
You’re open in the spring and summer downtown, how’s that going and will you be down there again next year?
The downtown store was huge this summer. There was a lot going on down on the riverfront this past summer. The city and the park district were great to work with. I'm looking forward to next spring, its a lot of fun down there.
What’s your favorite Emack flavor of ice cream?
Caramel Moose Prints.
What’s the ice cream challenge you have and has anyone ever conquered it?
It's called the Emack Attack—it's 24 scoops of ice cream plus all the toppings—no one person has ever done it. It’s usually a group of people who share it. The smallest group to do it were two twin brothers celebrating their 18th birthday. They finished it in about 35 minutes but one of the brothers was pretty sick afterwards. If one person does it we will get them a Stoney the Moose t-shirt.
You have a variety of ice cream cones and some of them look good enough to eat without any ice cream in them. Does anybody ever order them just plain?
Yeah, the cones themselves are a great treat. I have one customer that gets a rainbow sprinkle cone with gummy bears put in the cone. We don’t judge, we just serve it up!
Outside of you and Jim, do you have any other employees that work here?
Oh yeah, this past summer we had 13 employees between the two stores. It scales way down in the fall and winter to just Jim and me and a couple of employees. It is truly a seasonal business.
I kind of gave up on the MBIP buckets, but I have to say yours is very impressive!
Thank you, one of our top scoopers did that bucket.
Who did the artwork on that?
Lanae did the art work on the bucket. She’s a very talented artist and we are lucky enough to have her here with us.
Tell her I’m very impressed with it!
I will tell her, she loves the blog. The girls use the bucket for their tip jar.
One cool thing about your store is all the posters and art on the walls.. What’s your favorite poster or art hanging in here?
My favorite poster is this vintage Who poster. I always liked Keith Moon and his weirdness.
My favorite artwork piece is the one your big brother Jim did. I always liked Jim and his weirdness, it's an honor to have it hanging in the store.
I see a guitar on the wall, do you play it?
No I can't play the guitar, I wish I could. That guitar is my son Michael’s first electric guitar, the strap is from my brother Phil, circa 1967.
You have a back party room, what’s the story with that?
Yeah we have a party room here in the back of the store. It holds about 25 people.
What’s it cost to rent it?
There’s no charge, we just ask that you buy your ice cream here. We use it a lot. Birthdays, meetings, showers, just about anything. People just need to call the store or stop in and see if the date is open for you and its yours.
What are your hours of business?
We’re open seven days a week at the Heights store. Monday through Friday we open at noon and we close at 9PM on Sundays and Mondays. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we’re open till 10PM and Fridays and Saturdays we’re open till 10:30PM if you need a late night ice cream fix.
Bonus Ice Cream Art by Jaws the Cabbie!
Jaws The Cabbie sent in some “we all scream for ice cream” art. Ha! Nice work, Jaws, thanks!