Growing up, many kids dream of someday owning an ice cream shop, their own personal paradise where they can have unlimited sweet, frozen treats and be surrounded by the bright colors and happy patrons.
Anita Alden of Wally’s Wicked Good Ice Cream is living the dream.
“I have always wanted to own a place like this!” exclaims Alden, who grew up in Waltham. “I wanted a little café...and this location is just perfect.”
Like many local small businesses, Wally’s is a family affair. Anita and her husband Jimmy own the popular ice cream shop and their kids, Cam and Abby, work there when time allows. In fact, the store is named after the family’s 4 1/2-year-old dog, Wally.
“People assume we named the shop – and him- after the [Red Sox] mascot, but he actually came with the name,” Alden shares. “And the kids came up with the idea of naming the shop after Wally. Our dinnertime conversation isn’t like everyone else’s. It revolves around the shop, around business and ice cream!”
The idea of involving the younger generation in the business extends beyond just the Alden household. One of the Wally’s employees graduated from Newton South High School last June and started this fall at Babson College. The NSHS grad has an aunt who works with the Management Consulting Field Experience program at Babson and, with this connection and a strong need in place, Wally’s was matched with a group of students to help build a social media presence.
“It provides them with practical, real world business experience,” explains Alden. “And I thought, why not use my target demographic (the all-important 18 – 24 year old group) to inform us? Now I have this really great team working with us.”
When the Aldens first thought about buying the former Ice Cream Club back in 2008, they never expected to be dealing with things like Facebook and Twitter, though.
Both Anita and Jimmy were working sales and marketing in the travel industry (“it’s still our ‘day job,’ explains Alden) when a potential job loss for Anita led to Jimmy jokingly suggesting that they look at the Auburndale ice cream business that was for sale.
Anita didn’t see it as a joke at all. Being a smart businesswoman, she did some research and ran the numbers–and a few months later, the Ice Cream Club was theirs.
The Aldens finished out the 2008 - 2009 season under the old moniker, but in 2010 they gave the interior a complete renovation and renamed the establishment after their Wire-Haired Pointing Griffon. In fact, their new logo prominently features Wally – who is somewhat of famous figure himself.
“He has become a ‘celebridog,’” laughs Alden. “I take him off into The Cove to walk him, and the little children will scream from across the park, ‘MOM! DAD! IT’S WALLY!’ And thankfully he is a very friendly little guy.”
Catering to the tastes of their younger patrons is part of what makes Wally’s so special. According to Alden, one of their most popular flavors is Cake Batter, and she feels that this – and the popularity of their other cookie- and candy-laden flavors – is due in large part to their more youthful customer base.
The other thing for which they are known is their specialty toppings. Though they are more expensive than your “usual, waxy” jimmies, Alden went out of her way to research and then purchase real chocolate jimmies from famed, gourmet chocolatier Guittard. And she is quick to point out that the old myth about this East Coast name for “sprinkles” being racist has been soundly debunked. In fact, the Boston Globe did a piece last year on the entire history of the term “jimmies,” and nowhere was it seen to be pejorative.
At the end of the day, Alden is just happy that Wally’s is a place where entire families – not unlike her own – can come and enjoy a sweet treat together.
“Ice cream is recession-proof,” states Alden. “It is an affordable indulgence. You may not be able to take the entire family out for a nice dinner if you’re counting pennies, but you can afford to take everyone out for fun ice cream.”
Wally’s Wicked Good Ice Cream will be closing for the season in late October, though if the weather is warm they may be open on weekends in November. They will reopen on weekends in March (as long as the weather cooperates), and will be open throughout the week again in time for April vacation. And look for the Wally’s Wagon in March at the Winter Farmers’ Market at Hyde Community Center!