An Inside Glimpse at the Strange and Wonderful World of Dexter Creamery
By Doug Marrin
Dexter Creamery is celebrating its fourth anniversary in May. In that time, the Creamery has endeared itself to the community. It feels like the quaint shop in downtown Dexter has always been around.
That is no accident. Owner Chris Jones works hard to make the shop a place that people enjoy.
"We started with just frozen yogurt," he says. "And every winter, we revamp the restaurant, adjusting to what Dexter is missing and what community needs."
"If you look at where we're at today versus where we were when we opened in May of 2017, we've come a long way," he adds. "The growth has been exciting."
Dexter Creamery, however, is not Chris' day job. Instead, Chris has built a thriving business in digital telecommunications. His office, Intuitive Technology, is located above the Creamery.
The big question I had for Chris is—When you already have a successful business, why open a frozen yogurt/gourmet popsicle shop, typically not much of a money-maker?
His answer is where the strange and wonderful part appears. Chris didn't open Dexter Creamery to make money.
Despite his success and appreciation for his success in telecommunications, Chris says, "That job does not personally fulfill me. Even growing millions of dollars in business, I wasn't any happier because I wasn't making a difference in the world."
Chris realized his work was not unique. Anyone could step in and do it. In response to that lack of purpose, Chris began working with missions in Haiti, a cause he still supports through the Creamery. All of this was happening while the Joneses lived in Nashville. So, when they relocated to Dexter nine years ago, he immediately wanted to do something that would benefit his new community.
"I wanted to provide a place where families could go to have good family time," explains Chris. "I wanted to use the sales and the profits from the business to benefit the community. Ultimately, I wanted to do something that was going to provide more good than just selling phone systems."
The Creamery has to pay its bills and generate some profit, yes. But, making money is not what drives Chris in this business. Instead, he is energized by the experiences his shop provides others. "A smile is one-thousand times more important to me than one dollar," he says.
If you know Chris, you know he says that from the heart. And that heart was sorely tested a year ago in the first few months of the pandemic lockdown when the world was falling apart. Then, the virus and how it spread was still a mystery in many ways. Consumers didn't know what to expect and were stockpiling. Supply chains were severely constricted, and stores were running out of some staples. So rather than lock up his auxiliary business until it all blew over, Chris chose the hard way.
"I found local suppliers, and we converted everything into groceries," recalls Chris. "We did online orders and curbside pickup."
"I wanted to make a difference," he adds. "I honestly was scared for where things were headed, and I didn't want to sit back and watch. I wanted to do whatever I could to be a part of the solution."
Little did Chris know that he had correctly intuited what many people wanted at that time. The response was overwhelming, he remembers, "I'll be honest with you, that first couple of weeks, when we started getting as many orders as we did, I wondered what the heck I had gotten into."
Dexter Creamery was closed Mondays and Tuesdays to scoop ice cream and prepare meals for the frontline workers. Customers could place online grocery orders for Wednesdays. Chris would unlock the shop's door to a pile of order slips printed out and piled onto the floor. "We were running orders out to the curb all day long," he says.
While the first few months of the lockdown are perhaps immortalized in the shop's history, it all falls under Chris' idea of his business existing primarily to serve the community. The Creamery sponsors events such as the Friday Night Summer Concert Series in Monument Park. At Christmas, making gingerbread houses at the Creamery is a big hit. And of course, there is the daily fun of going into the shop for a cup of soft-serve ice cream and smothering it with your favorite toppings. The line-up of MOO-ville hard-pack ice cream has been doubled this year.
The Joneses, Chris, his wife Janine, and their seven kids—Angela, Rebecca, Mackenzie, Caitlin, Amelia, Christian, and Elliot (born last June during the height of the shutdown chaos)—spend as much time as they can together, outdoors in the sun and seasons or indoors playing games. This strong sense of family is the life source for his drive to create a place for others to come together.
Chris has no intention of slowing down. He says, "I am just super excited about the future and what this can do for Dexter in the long term. I want Dexter Creamery to be around, whether it's me running or whoever takes the reins after me. I want that same mission to continue forever into perpetuity."
And perhaps it is that attitude that gives us the feeling that Dexter Creamery has always been around.