Is Brandon allowed to be cool?
It isn’t a question that gets asked a lot.
For years, the closest claim to coolness was the gaggle of Starbucks all over the place. Not long after came the obligatory Apple store at the mall. Someone thought a hookah café on Boyette Road would work. That didn’t last long.
Coolness is a foreign concept in these parts. When people fight to put in a Bass Pro Shop in your back yard, you’re not exactly wallowing in hipster trendiness.
I would argue there are glimmers of hope.
A couple weeks ago, I read on Facebook (not even remotely cool) that a new ice cream place called Revolution Ice Cream Co. was opening on Brandon Boulevard (the opposite of cool). I checked it out on Day No. 3.
Tucked in the elbow of the Brandon Retail and Office Center, 220 W. Brandon Blvd., between a cell phone store and the Swank Hair Lounge and Nail Bar, Revolution is serving what I can only professionally describe as life-altering ice cream.
I may be understating this.
With only a half-dozen homemade flavors a day, store owner Bill Workman has created a mini phenomenon.
People get excited when you sell Chocolate Habanero ice cream that first brings delicious, creamy, chocolaty goodness to the tongue one moment and then a slow, perfect scorch of habanero pepper the next.
Bacon lovers go a little crazy when you make a Porky’s Delight vanilla ice cream with bits of bacon in it and bacon brittle sprinkled on top.
Chocoholics have a bit of a meltdown at the counter trying to decide between the Drunken Brownie, with its Chardonnay, caramel ice cream and brownie bits, and the Chocolate Shock’s chocolate ice cream, brownie debris and chocolate chips on top.
It’s fun to watch customers stand with mouths agape and tortured with choices at the front counter, which is decorated with dozens of paint sample cards that a home-improvement store is no-doubt missing. You can almost feel their internal dialogue.
In November 2010, Workman began making batches with a countertop Cuisinart after going home to Pittsburgh and finding an ice cream store there with funky flavors.
He came back to Tampa and started searching for a similar spot. He found none. So he started experimenting at home with a countertop Cuisinart ice cream maker.
After Workman lost his job eight months ago as an online university admissions rep, he decided to make an ice cream store for people like him. He was making up to 250 pints of ice cream a month for friends at home. That had to be a business, he figured.
He was right. Since opening, the store has set a new sales record every day.
His wife, Leslee, a photographer and a designer, came up with the logo, which has shades of Red Army in it. The rest of the room looks like Tim Burton’s day care, with furniture fit for drawing on and a wall clock that has all the numbers bunched on one side.
On April 14, the store will host a grand opening party for the public in the parking lot with bounce houses, buy-one-get-one ice cream and samples from nearby restaurants.
“I honestly looked at the option of doing this in South Tampa, Seminole Heights and Hyde Park,” he said. “But Brandon deserves to be cool. I think people in Brandon are cool because I live in Brandon.”