A Q&A with the owner of Cookeville’s newest ice cream shop

The Lazy Cow Creamery shop sign sits on the corner of South Walnut Avenue and East Jackson Street. Photo by Rebecca Franey.

Meet Brandon Henley, the owner of Lazy Cow Creamery. He opened his Cookeville ice cream shop in October 2017 and the Livingston location in June 2018.

Did you always want to be a business owner?

I guess looking back on it, kind of. Yeah. Independence has always been really important to me and when you get into working, you know, the only way you’re going to be truly independent is to have your own business. So I guess I was always sort of heading here and I guess I didn’t know it.

Why an ice cream business?

I guess… it’s a really good business because your customer base includes almost everyone and those people it doesn’t include, a lot of times it’s because of allergies or diet and I’ve actually been creating products that covers those concerns as well, like our vegan ice cream. And I’ve been working on no sugar added. It’s still an industry where you can come in and compete without having tons of money. You just come in and make a better product and that’s really what makes it the perfect industry for me. 

How do you set your ice cream shop apart from other, larger competitors?

It’s 100 percent the homemade aspect of it. We make everything by hand from scratch in our kitchen. We make almost all of the candy inclusions as well, like the butter pecan brittle, the peppermint patties, we even make the marshmallows. We use local ingredients wherever we can. The biggest is our milk and cream, which comes from Sunrise Dairy, which is a family-owned dairy in Crossville. Kind of small time, but they’re getting bigger and I like to think that we’re helping that. Other local ingredients include our coffee from Red Oak Roasters. They roast that in Rickman. I’m always looking for other local ingredients that we can switch to.

How do you come up with flavor ideas?

Well I take inspiration from a lot of places, you know. I’m actually part of the ice cream trade association called NICRA, National Ice Cream Retailers Association, and it’s a whole group of small ice cream shops, like myself, just talking and helping each other and figuring out industry trends, and etcetera, etcetera. Then sometimes I just say, “I want to make an ice cream like X. A lot of times it’s just experimentation and then sometimes you’ll see something somewhere else and you’ll put your own little twist on it. I wanted to do a Rocky Road, but thought it could be improved and so I made a flavor called Rocky Top… and instead of almonds I do walnuts and take it a step farther and I make it a crunchy walnut brittle. And we make our homemade marshmallows. 

What were your biggest challenges opening a store?

They were personal. It was and still continues to be almost entirely my complete inexperience in business. I don’t come from, you know, a big business background and a lot of this, a lot of small business and entrepreneurship, I’m learning as I go. Yeah, that’s the biggest challenge, just trying to overcome my own inexperience. Marketing is a big one. Trying to figure out whether or not you’re reaching customers and potential customers. Honestly, managing employee hours is a big one, right now especially. Trying to figure out how to keep them working without losing money is a constant struggle. Managing growth is a good way to put it. It’s very easy to grow too fast and outstrip your own resources. 

What is your favorite thing about owning an ice cream business?

It feels like a place where people can come and just be happy and that was always one of my goals as well, just a place where people can gather. It’s kind of hard to walk into an ice cream store and be upset. We just want to be a community spot and I feel like that’s the best thing about it because such places seem to be going away and I wanted to try to do our part to keep those sorts of community destinations and meeting spots alive. 

What are the future goals for the company?

It goes back to the problem of growth. Of course, I’m always considering expansion. I have people come in quite a bit who want me to go to this city or that city and the important part to me is I want to keep this a small business, I want to keep this local. I’m not really interested in outside investors… but I want to keep this a Cookeville original, basically, no matter where we go. This will always be where we started and hopefully this can always be our base of operations. I don’t really have any firm plans yet, but I’m working on it. 

Lazy Cow Creamery is located at 500 South Walnut Ave. in Cookeville and is open from noon – 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The Livingston location is at 204 West Main St. and is open from 2 p.m. – 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 2 p.m. – 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. 

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