By Rubin E. Grant
School activities at Hall-Kent Elementary in Homewood had become get-to-know-your-neighbors events, and as some of those families got to know each other better, they decided to open a business to benefit the community.
Sometime in March or April, Neighbors West Homewood, a new neighborhood-owned ice cream shop concept, will open.
Neighbors recently signed a lease in the newly renovated Westwood Shopping Center. Thirteen West Homewood families came together to start the business, making it the first neighborhood-owned business in the area. The shop will serve a variety of flavors of ice cream, candy and other sweets.
“The families who are a part of this are all connected,” said Paul Simmons, who, along with his wife, Apryl, are part of the ownership group. “A lot of our kids go to Hall-Kent, and when we attended an event, we got to know each other, and as our relationships grew, we decided since we love our neighbors and our neighborhood, why not invest in it.”
The families hope Neighbors will bring more value to the neighborhood.
“We’re excited to bring a local ice cream shop back to the West Homewood neighborhood,” said Michael Eady, spokesman for the ownership group. “However, we’re most excited to have an ownership group that properly represents the true diversity of our neighborhood. Each of the families investing in this business desires to serve our neighbors well and recruit others to eat, shop and live in West Homewood.”
The following families own Neighbors: the Simmons, John and Leslie McElheny, Will and Jana Flinkow, Payton and Heather Junkin, Jonathan and Maria Fleisher, Carlos and Mercedes Alemán, Bernard and Stephanie Mays, Michael and Sarah Beth Eady, Christopher and Jenna Bailey, David and Rebekah Ytterberg, Andrew and Trista Wolverton, Erik and Lauren Gibson, Johnny and Courtney Grimes, Brittany and Robert Sturdivant, Matt and Amanda Leach, J.W. and Becky Carpenter.
For the Community
The shop will be the first community-owned business in Homewood.
“We’re looking forward to it,” John McElheny said. “We think the ice cream shop will be a benefit to the community. We’re not concerned about any financial award. We think it will be a great place to gather, socialize and foster relationships.”
Simmons is overjoyed Neighbors will be an ice cream shop.
“I worked for Baskin-Robbins at one time,” Simmons said, “so this a passion for me. It’s in my blood. Besides, who doesn’t love ice cream?”
Derek Waltchack, owner of the Westwood Shopping Center, is glad to see Neighbors become a part of it.
“I haven’t been this excited about a new tenant for one of our properties in a long time,” Waltchack said. “Michael Eady has a strong business and branding background. I can’t wait to bring my kids to Neighbors West Homewood. This could be a new model for retailers going forward.”
Neighbors plans to open once construction and renovations to the former Magic City Sweet Ice space are complete.
For more information, updates on construction and grand opening, visit neighborshwd.com and follow @neighborshwd on social media.