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    Palm Harbor ice cream shop a childhood dream come true

    By JILLIAN BANDES
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published September 2, 2002

    PALM HARBOR -- Bill and Susan Strachan were ready to change careers.

    For 33 years, Bill Strachan, 61, had been a ticket operator and ground service supervisor for Trans World Airlines. Over 20 years, Mrs. Strachan, 57, had worked her way up to senior vice president of an insurance company with more than 100,000 representatives nationwide.

    Several years ago they quit their corporate jobs, sold virtually all their assets and opened a homemade ice cream and dessert shop, something Mrs. Strachan had dreamed of doing since childhood.

    Neither knew the first thing about how to make ice cream or run a restaurant.

    Mrs. Strachan took an ice cream-making class at Pennsylvania State University, and followed with another at the University of Maryland.

    Their first ice cream machine was delivered to their Palm Harbor home about six months before they opened their business in May 1999. The recipe was tried and tried again to satisfy their finicky standards.

    "We gave away gallons and gallons of ice cream to our neighbors, trying out the best product," Mrs. Strachan said.

    The Strachans insisted on using only the most expensive ingredients, posing a financial challenge to the fledging enterprise. For example, the pecans in their butter pecan ice cream are specially buttered and roasted to order, almost doubling the price.

    "People don't think this is an expensive business to run. It is," Mrs. Strachan said.

    Strachan's Homemade Ice Cream, at the northwest corner Tampa Road and Alt. U.S. 19 N in Palm Harbor, would not become profitable for three years.

    The ice cream is made from scratch, a time-consuming process Bill Strachan tackles two to four a week in six-hour stretches. Mrs. Strachan creates the desserts. From grated carrots in her hand-frosted carrot cake, to drizzling melted butter over her Oreo Ice Cream Pies, everything in the store is created from raw ingredients and made by her or her employees.

    The store employs 10 high school and college students, who must maintain a 3.0 grade point average to keep their jobs.

    "Our employees are half of the reason we are where we are," Mrs. Strachan said.

    Taking the leap from the corporate world to running their own small business was challenging but well worth it, the Strachans said.

    Their work brings satisfaction in ways their former jobs did not. Mrs. Strachan always had a knack for making desserts. Now she profits from that talent.

    "We enjoyed (our former jobs), but they weren't great," she said. "It was a job. Now people walk into our store with a smile and walk out with a bigger one; and that's just a great business to be in."

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