Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mt. Tom's on the Weather Channel. Wait, what?

This is probably old news to most of you, especially if you are a Mt. Tom's fan over on Facebook.

Mt. Tom's Homemade Ice Cream went national last week! During a series of segments over the course of last Sunday morning (and repeated throughout the afternoon), the Weather Channel sampled and rated a few of our flavors as part of their 'Ice Cream Sunday' program. You can check out the highlights here...

Thanks to Pat Brough for putting this video 'highlight film' together. Not sure how you did it, but it's great to have it all in one place (at least until youtube takes it down). As you can probably guess, their 'ice cream show' was shown in little segments between extreme weather reports, news, and local weather on the 8's, so it would have taken you two hours to see what Pat compressed into that little video.

I must admit it was pure, unadulterated awesome and a bit surreal to flip on the Weather Channel that morning and see their little freezer open and overflowing with tubs of ice cream.. with one of those pints showing off a big Mt. Tom's logo on it. Marketing nirvana.

It just got better from there.

To be honest, until I saw my logo in that freezer on my TV screen in my living room, I wasn't even sure it had even worked. After all, I'd never even attempted to ship ice cream. All I knew was it wasn't easy, and it was expensive. But I did have two aces up my ice cream covered sleeve - a source for dry ice. I've had this on my wall for a few years now...

.. And a very good friend at Fed Ex. Liz Jenks, who just happens to be an expert on overnight shipping with all things considered hazardous (e.g. dry ice). She helped me box up the pints, add all the right labels and markings, and even drove it over to the Fed Ex office for me. I'm still thanking her for going way above and beyond the call of friendship.

So let me back up for a second. I'm sure you're wondering how I was able to get Mt. Tom's ice cream on the Weather Channel in the first place. I wish it was a more gripping story, still, given the odds of landing such a market coup, I may never know the extent of synchronicity involved in my getting the call.

'The call' came on a Wednesday, from a Weather Channel producer. 'I'm working on an ice cream tasting segment to be aired live. Part of it will involve different brands of vanilla. The other part will include unique ice cream flavors. I see that you make Maple Bacon ice cream. Are you interested in having your ice cream be part of the show?'

It can be tricky because as every small business owner knows, you get calls from strangers promising things all the time. Usually it's lower credit card transaction rates or shady low interest loans, but once in a while real opportunity is at the other end of the line. I had no way to know for sure on this one, aside from the fact that the guy who called had a voice that sounded like a smooth radio announcer. Obviously not indisputable proof the call was real, but enough to make me say, 'let me figure out how to get you some pints, and I'll call you right back.' I quickly determined if I was ever going to ship ice cream, this would be it. I called back and said ok. I picked 5 of what I consider my best (had to use the special flavors I had that day since the box had to be in the air the next morning, luckily Maple Bacon was made and ready to go!). So Brian the scooper packed up the pints, put them in the blast freezer to freeze them up to a solid twenty-six below zero, and after a trip to American Ice for dry ice then Manchester Hardware for a small cooler the next morning, I had everything I needed to (hopefully) safely ship ice cream to Atlanta in July. I called the Weather Channel producer guy and told him it was on the way, and if he could just unload the pints into a freezer as soon as they arrived. And I also asked if he could just give me a quick call to let me know it wasn't just a big puddle of sour milk with bits of bacon in it when it hit his 95 degree doorstep.

Late Friday morning, the Fed Ex tracking number said the package was left on the steps of the guy's house. I never did get that call, so I literally had no idea if Mt. Tom's would have anything to do with 'Ice Cream Sunday' a few days later. I was afraid to tell anyone because I just didn't know.

You can imagine my relief when I saw that tub sitting in the Weather Channel freezer.

Not only did the ice cream make it in its frozen form, the crew on the Weather Channel loved it.

Chalk one up as another great 'start an ice cream shop life adventure/journey' moment. Made even sweeter by being able to share it with the many friends and customers who are the reason my little ice cream shop adventure is still here and still growing after almost 9 years.

And to answer the one big question, how did Mt. Tom's ice cream end up getting that call from a national network based in Atlanta in the first place? All I can say is, the guy who called had somehow heard we made Maple Bacon ice cream. He had seen a few of our other 'non-traditional flavors' on our website and thought they would fit in well with the 'non-traditional ice cream flavors' piece he was charged with producing. It could have been one lucky web search, a friend-of-a-friend who works at the Weather Channel who comes here, or something else. I did hear a story from a guy who was here a few days ago who said he thought there was a weather forecaster who used work at Channel 40 Springfield and moved to the Weather channel that loved coming to Mt. Tom's. If you're reading this, and you happen to be that guy, I can't thank you enough. Next one's on me...

Thanks to all that have shared the great comments about having seen it (we were in Vermont on a trip and saw it in the hotel. My mom in Iowa saw it..). I guess time will tell if the exposure will lead to anything else. Has it boosted business? Hard to say, although it certainly hasn't hurt. Just being able to be part of putting Easthampton on the 'national weather map' for a day is in itself pretty satisfying..

Thanks for listening, and watching, and hope to see you soon, Jim