Ryan Williams has a fondness for the creamy soft serve ice cream that he grew up eating as a child in rural northern Indiana. And he's been a long-time musician, known for picking up a guitar, singing a little something and making up a song.
So, at age 55 and with his daughter grown, Williams decided he'd try something other than a 9-5 job and opened Beaver Bog's Ice Cream at Northgate Mall in Durham. As luck would have it, the space has a small stage, where he features music and stories for kids from time to time.
It's a pop-up shop. Williams plans to stay open at least through Aug. 31. If it's popular, he'd love to make it a permanent business.
"I try to make ice cream like I remember as a kid," he said.
Beaver Bog's is a family affair. His wife helps with the books. His daughter helps with the social media. They both are behind the counter on the weekends and when they're available. And Williams can thank his daughter, named Sydney, for the name and mascot.
As a child, she created a loveable looking creature named Bog, which would show up on homemade cards and pictures. He'd take on different personalities depending on the season or the person she was making a card for. There's the Rockabilly bog, for instance, for Williams.
Today, they grace the Beaver Bog sign. Beaver is dressed to look a bit like the old fashioned Good Humor man. Memphis has a red, white and blue guitar. The real guitar, which kids love to ogle, sits on the shop's small stage. Williams jokes that he'll owe his daughter royalties if the shop takes off.
"I'm trying to bring these characters to life," he said. Williams hopes to get a Beaver Bog mascot costume soon.
Some recommended that Williams use powder to make his ice cream. It's easier to store and cheaper to make. But Williams wanted an authentic taste. So he travels to a dairy farm in Dunn each week to pick up fresh local cream that's flavored with vanilla.
The cream turns out an incredibly smooth and rich treat. Right now, he just offers vanilla though he'd like to add other flavors soon. But he does have seven hard shell candy toppings, such as chocolate, caramel and cotton candy - reminiscent of the cherry topping he'd get on his ice cream as a child.
If you'd like, you can add what he calls a "choco-log" to your dish, a flaky, chocolate candy bar that looks a bit like a log. He also serves up Joe Van Gogh coffee, which he can top with some ice cream - a decadent way to get your caffeine.
Prices are incredibly reasonable. A bowl or cone start at $2.25.
Williams offers stories and music on Saturday afternoons - usually around 3 p.m. He'll sing and perform, but he also welcomes the public to take over the stage. Watch the video to hear Williams sing Beaver Bog's jingle.
He hopes to add more scheduled activities as the summer moves forward. Be sure to check Beaver Bog's Facebook page for the latest schedule.
"One of my whole things is to get kids and adults to show what they got," he said.
There's been a bit of a learning curve for Williams - from getting the ice cream just right to working the cash register. But he's hopeful it will take off. The shop sits right next to the mall's kiddie train, which will take on a safari theme this summer. And it's just a few shops down from the mall's Discovery Nook, which offers free activities for kids each month. In other words, lots of kids and families will be walking right by Beaver Bog's.
Williams hopes the shop turns into something his daughter can fall back on if she wants.
"I was bored with a regular job," he said. "I'm 55. There are no guarantees. I thought this would be nice to try."
Go Ask Mom features local parents every Monday. In June, we only feature local dads.