The oldest ice cream shop in Columbus was opened by Robert N. Johnson and his son-in-law James Wilcoxon on September 1, 1950. While they sold their first scoops of ice cream from the middle of a meat market, together they then built a 15’ x 20’ facility at 2728 East Main Street in Bexley and started Johnson’s REAL Ice Cream. Founder Robert Johnson named his ice cream shop Johnson’s REAL Ice Cream because in comparison to other frozen products of the time, Johnson’s quality ingredients, fine flavoring and family recipes were REAL. The ice cream machine he purchased when the shop opened in 1950 is still being used by his great grandson, and current president, Matt Wilcoxon.
Today, that 15’ x 20’ building has expanded in size several times due to increases in retail sales at their location on Main Street. They quickly realized, however, that with increased production came the need for increased storage space. Soon after the acquisition of a distribution center that housed a 10,000 sf freezer, Johnson’s began shipments to retail customers in six states – Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, Florida and Tennessee. They’re proud, however, to still manufacture their ice cream here at home and to source their ingredients locally.
In addition to supplying product to 25 Kroger stores in and around central Ohio, Johnson’s has partnered with 300 Columbus restaurants, including the famed Cameron Mitchell group. “Word of mouth is also a key marketing strategy,” Matt said, “We believe the quality of our product sells itself.” In 2016, Matt and his team at Johnson’s are looking forward to an increase in private labeling, pint sales and distribution. With eight ice cream carts and a mobile trailer, they’re also looking forward to boosting their catering numbers as well.
While the company had been a customer of the same ‘big bank’ since 1951, Matt felt strongly that a local, community bank might be a better fit for his local, community ice cream shop. After sharing his expansion plans with Jeff Kessler, VP, Market Leader and Stuart Schloss, VP, Commercial Relationship Manager at the Gahanna office, the family accessed the necessary financing (in 30 short days) to move forward with new technology, equipment and an expansion of their party room. Matt is very proud that Johnson’s guests can sit in the party room and observe the entire production of their ice cream products. “Here’s what we do, we do it best, no secrets!” he said. Is your financial life all whip cream and sprinkles? Get the ‘scoop’ and be refreshed at Heartland Bank, “Where banking really feels good.”