The former Alivia’s Ice Cream, at 302 W. Main St., Willard, became the “perfect” spot for the Smiths. Another ice cream shop, Lisa’s Ice Cream, also plans to open downtown in the next month, said Willard City Manager Jim Ludban.
For the Smiths though, the opportunity came after they were “in the right place at the right time.”
Craig said he and his wife were working on a cabin that his father and uncles built “with their bare hands” near Holiday Lakes when they decided to take a break one evening.
“We were out there and I said, ‘Why don’t we go out to Willard and get some ice cream?,’” he said. “Then while we’re enjoying our ice cream there at Alivia’s, we looked up and saw a ‘for sale’ sign there. We looked at each other and said. ‘Is someone trying to tell us this is the place for us?’ And it just worked out.”
Smith said he negotiated the purchase of the business and the building in one deal in September. After some renovations, they created Sweet Smitty’s — a play on the couple’s last name.
“And we started an unbelievable adventure,” he said. “We’ve kept all the things everybody loves and we’ve made some changes. We took two months surveying customers, finding out what they liked, didn’t like, how we needed to improve. And then we brought back things everyone enjoyed from Lee’s Diner that was here back in the 1980s.”
The shop added more ice cream options, now including “all kinds of hard ice cream flavors” from Toft’s in addition to offering soft-serve ice creams, sundaes, milkshakes and flurries.
“My wife and I are very true connoisseurs of ice cream,” Smith said with a laugh, adding the shop was a dream come true for the couple.
“We’re super excited,” he said, “It’s been a lifetime dream of ours to get into ice cream business. ... For the past 15 years my wife and I had been looking for an ice cream shop more near Cleveland but then this came up.”
Smith said Willard has turned out to be a perfect location for the business, which employs “15 of the best and brightest” local high school and college students.
“It’s our little niche passion of food,” Smith said, referring to ice cream. “We loved Willard for being a place of people being of genuine thoughts and they’re just nice people. It’s just been really nice to be here. And they love the doughnuts. People in Willard just love that since it’s the only place to get fresh made doughnuts around here since IGA closed.”
Smith said the doughnuts, which compliments their menu of lunch and dinner items like shredded chicken sandwiches, are fresh made and offered just twice a week at the shop. At least 20 flavors of doughnuts are offered on Friday and Saturdays.
“We work with Beckers Doughnuts in Cleveland,” he said. “They’ve been in business over 75 years and I’ve known them since I was a child. So I go in with them at 2 a.m. to help them make those doughnuts on Friday and Saturday.”
Smith does this on top of his motion picture, picture and film company, OSV Studios, also based out of Cleveland. He said his wife Kelly will regularly run Sweet Smitty’s.
The shop, which offers drive-thru and car-hop serving, is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Smith said the shop will soon extend hours in to the 9 o’clock hour and then stay open until 10 p.m. after school lets out.
“Or possibly later to stay open for after baseball games and things,” he said. “We’re not a corporate giant, so we can be flexible for what the community would like.”