Workers at Howdy Homemade in Texas
At the Dallas-based Howdy Homemade, employees serve large scoops of ice cream handed over with love.
Restauranteur Tom Landis, 54, has hired people with special needs for many years. But he couldn't always find a job for everyone who came to his fast-paced sandwich shops and pizza joints looking for work. Determined to create a business where friendliness mattered and kitchens were safe, he landed on ice cream.
In 2015, he opened the first Howdy Homemade ice cream shop; there are now seven franchises in cities including Asheville, El Paso, Indianapolis and Denver. Each shop creates 15 jobs in a safe environment for people with special needs. Two more franchises are opening soon, he says.
"Our relentless mission is to employ all," he shares in this week's issue of PEOPLE.
Employees are behind some of the best ideas at the shops, which boast fun flavors like top-selling Dr. Pepper Chocolate Chip, and other favorites like Cold Brew & Cookies and Strawberry Milkshake. In-store sampling events are leading to deals with Sam's Club and other grocery stores in the coming months.
Courtesy One of Howdy Homemade's ice cream trucks
"It just works," Landis says of the varieties. "We sell out every time."
In the sunny, brightly colored Howdy Homemade shops, employees spread kindness and happiness to their customers as they dish out extra ice cream and free sprinkles.
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"That's what ice cream is," Landis says of the joy.
His employees, he says, are heroes.
"They lead me," he adds.