A standard, Sunday afternoon trip to the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh launched Allen Lombard and Rebecca Buckwald's business.
Lombard had taken his sons to the museum. One asked for some ice cream. He was happy to oblige. Then, he realized that there were no ice cream shops open in downtown Raleigh on a Sunday.
Lombard, along with Buckwald, decided to fix that. The couple each have two teenage sons and are engaged. They opened Treat, an ice cream and coffee shop on Blount Street in City Market, in May.
Treat serves up creations from Hillsborough-based Maple View Farms, along with Benelux drip coffee and espresso drinks. The shop has 22 ice creams and two sorbets on the menu, including seasonal selections such as egg nog and Grandma's fruitcake. Lombard came up with the clever names for the three-scoop sundaes, which include Johnny Cashew, Raleigh Hipster and RTP Worker Bee. They also sell ice cream floats with soda from glass bottles.
Just a block from Marbles Kids Museum and a few blocks from the natural sciences and history museum and Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts, Treat makes for a perfect family stop after a day at the museum or a performance.
"It's a nice little pit stop," Buckwald said.
For years, Buckwald was a stay-at-home mom to her two boys, now 18 and 16. In between school volunteering and extracurricular shuttling, she also spent time as a preschool teacher and painting murals. She'd worked previously as a producer at a New York ad agency and has created the graphics and logos for Treat.
Lombard, whose sons are 13 and 15, is a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry who later moved into the business side of things. He still works a bit as a business consultant.
Both had wanted to open up their own business. Though they live in Cary, downtown Raleigh seemed like the ideal location.
The two said the downtown Raleigh business community was incredibly helpful as they prepared to open. A restaurant shared the name of a table maker, another gave them the name of a paint color, others have provided them assistance and advice. The couple spent about half a year to fine tune their plans and find a spot. They settled on the Blount Street location in March and opened two months later.
"This wouldn't have happened so quickly without the support," Lombard said.
Summer was busy, which they expected. This fall, they introduced the coffee drinks and have been building up their catering opportunities, including putting together a tricycle with a freezer, which they can take to events, weddings, food truck rodeos and catering jobs.
Running your own business can be exhausting and stressful, the couple has learned. But now, with seven months under their belts, they have a growing rotation of regular customers.
"We worry if we don't see customers," Buckwald said. "That's the best - the customers."
Lombard and Buckwald only see more walking through their doors as new residential buildings and offices open up all around them.
"It's a growth area," Lombard said.
Treat offers some great deals each day.
All public employees (city, county, state, federal including public school teachers, first responders and active duty military), college students with a valid student ID and seniors 65 and up receive a 10 percent discount off any item.
For Marbles Kids Museum visitors, wear your Marbles admission sticker and receive either a free mini-cone with any purchase or 10 percent off your entire order.
On Tuesdays, get a two-scoop cone or cup for the price of a one-scoop cone or cup.
On First Fridays, all cups and cones are 10 percent off from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every First Friday.
Treat is at 305 S. Blount St., Raleigh. It's closed on Mondays.
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