Yum Yum’s: a three generation family tradition
On my first trip to Yum Yum’s, right across from UNCG on Spring Garden Street, I look carefully over the menu before ordering the only possible lunch item available, a hot dog. I get it loaded with mustard, chili, slaw and onions, along with a small bag of sour cream and onion potato chips and a 20 ounce Coca-Cola. Not a bad lunch for three dollars even, including tax. But before I can get settled into my chair facing out the large window I’ve already eaten the whole thing. So I go order another hot dog and bag of chips. There. Now I’m full and it cost me a total of five bucks.
As I’m thinking, ‘“What a great, cheap lunch ‘— especially if you’re in college,’” I notice there are just as many non-college folks as there are students. Some blue-collar workers take up one table, a group of nurses or lab technicians sit at another, and several grandmothers bring in their grandkids for ice cream.
The place has a nostalgic feel; a rack of glass Coke bottles clink as customers deposit empties. There’s a buzz of conversation all around me as patrons dine at the plastic-wood laminate tables. I watch people through the window as they cross the street and make their way up and down the sidewalk. A couple who appear to be in their early 30s meet for a quick lunch at a porcelain-covered table bolted to the sidewalk.
After lunch I enjoy a sugar cone of mint chocolate chip ice cream. It’s only a regular size but the ice cream is piled so high I think might tumble. Mint chocolate chip is one of my favorites and this one is delicious. And to top it off it is made entirely in house from scratch, using solid chocolate that comes in five-gallon pails and is heated to temperatures raging between 95 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit before being poured into the ice cream where it crystallizes and breaks into tiny pieces.
Yum Yum’s Roger Aydelette, co-owner with his father, Bernard, carries on a long family tradition of making ice cream that began with his grandfather, Wisdom Aydelette in the turn of the 20th century. Wisdom, or WB as he was known, went to the World’s Fair to learn how to make ice cream and got his first retail license in 1906. From there he spent his summers using a pushcart and later a horse-drawn wagon to deliver his ice cream here in Greensboro. During the winter months he worked odd jobs to make up his income. According to Roger, his grandfather said the horse kicked him one day so he decided to open a storefront. Then, in 1921, WB borrowed $1,000 to build his first building just down the road from its current location, and named the business West End Ice Cream with the logo: ‘Yum Yum, Better Ice Cream.’ That store, which became known to locals as Yum Yum’s, was paid off within the first year. He figured that if he were to make this his sole income he would have to do something to make up for the lack in ice cream sales during the colder months. So he began selling hot dogs.
Now the store sits at 1219 Spring Garden St. in a building that opened in 1974 and, just as it’s always been, it’s the only place you can get these dreamy treats. The ice cream isn’t available in stores or at other parlors.
In the back of the building sit several large engines that chug and churn constantly, producing the cold temperatures needed to make the frozen delicacies. One of the engines is from the early 1920s. The others are from the ’40s and ’50s.
Ammonia, which now replaces rock salt, is put in a vacuum and sent to cool a large mixer where milk powder, cream, sugar and gelatin are combined. Then the ingredients move to the Viscolizer, a machine that applies 2000 pounds per square inch to the mixture to suspend fat particles. After leaving the Viscolizer and being cooled again, fruits, nuts, chocolate and flavorings are mixed in to get the desired flavors and the ice cream is whipped to give it a nice, fluffy texture. After 24 hours in a hardening room the ice cream is ready for customers. The whole process takes two to three days to complete and produces approximately 600 gallons of ice cream per run.
Behind the counter employees stay busy serving customers who stop in for a treat during their work or school day. They go through a lot of cones these days, Roger says. In the old days they would make their own, but now they go through thousands. And one lick is all the proof you’ll need to know why that is.
To comment on this story, e-mail Lee Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.