Located in the heart of Dallas, Howdy Homemade is an ice cream shop where employees with special needs serve large scoops of ice cream handed over with love. The goal is to help people with developmental disabilities find employment, develop their skills and feel included in the community.
Restauranteur Tom Landis, 54, created Howdy Homemade. He’d hired many people with special needs but found that they often didn’t receive the same job opportunities as non-disabled people. That’s a problem that Landis is trying to fix.
In 2015, he decided to create a business that would give people with special needs a chance at work and an opportunity to learn new skills. So he opened the shop on Lovers Lane and began hiring teens and adults with autism and Down syndrome.
The ice cream is made in-house daily, serving classic favorites like vanilla and chocolate and original flavors such as Cold Brew & Cookies or Dr. Pepper Chocolate Chip, and a dairy-free Sor-BAE option for those who need to avoid dairy.
Besides serving ice cream, the shop employs 14 adults with IDDs. They are known as heroes at Howdy Homemade and are involved in all aspects of the business, including ice cream production, serving customers, and cleaning dining areas.
They also have the opportunity to learn more about business management and marketing. In addition, they can take part in training sessions that focus on customer service and teamwork.
Howdy Homemade won third place in the H-E-B 2021 Quest for Texas Best competition, which gave them the boost they needed to get their ice cream into grocery stores. As a result, they now have six ice cream flavors available at H-E-B and Central Market locations across the state.
It’s a win-win situation for the business and its employees, who are learning valuable skills transferable to other jobs. They also contribute to the local economy, which means their money stays in the state.
At Howdy Homemade, the ice cream is made with high-quality ingredients and much love. That’s the message that restauranteur Tom Landis, who opened the shop in 2015, wants to convey to the world.
Landis’s vision is to turn Howdy Homemade into a model for other businesses in the area, and he hopes it will spread to other cities in the United States and beyond. He firmly believes in the importance of hiring people with special needs. He says he is changing the face of Texas business by giving people who might be overlooked or underestimated a platform for success.
He was inspired to start Howdy Homemade by the book written by legendary football coach Gene Stallings, who told his own story of working with his son with Down syndrome in Another Season: A Memoir. He says that while the book is inspirational, it’s also a reminder of all the challenges those with disabilities face.
Since he opened the shop in 2015, he has employed more than 90 teens and adults with IDDs and served almost 1 million scoops of ice cream. The shop has been a success, and he’s impacting the city of Dallas and the community. He plans to open more shops in the coming years.