Family sells Santa and soft ice cream |

Family sells Santa and soft ice cream

Shannon Armstrong
Shannon Armstrong/Daily Business CorrespondentStrickland's store manager, Kevin Mays, holds a large vanilla cone, which sells for just $4.

AVON – ‘Tis the season … but if you’re having trouble getting into the holiday spirit a visit to the Valley’s newest Christmas store might be all you need. Micki Coles, owner of Santa’s Collectibles in Avon opened her new Christmas store a few weeks ago and you’d have to be the Grinch not to get the Christmas bug when stepping into the shop. There’s just no denying you’ve stepped into the midst of someone who embraces Christmas wholeheartedly. “I love Christmas”, Coles says. “I could have it out all year round.” That’s exactly what she plans to do. And although she says it has long been her dream to have a Christmas store, she loves all the holidays, she says. “During the rest of the year we’ll be 60 percent Christmas, but we’ll have other seasonal decorations as well. We’ll do Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, and so on,” she says.

In addition to decorated trees, lights, stockings, ornaments, garland, holiday rugs and more, Coles has two Santa artists featured in her store. One of the artists is Sunnie Andress of Vermont, who dresses her one-of-a- kind Santa’ in custom furs and vintage fabrics and old buttons. Eagle resident Kim Andree is the other Santa artist featured in the shop. Her Santas are dressed in period clothing and each one sits in an antique sleigh or chair surrounded by unique artifacts depicting an age gone by. “I’m lucky to have two such talented artists displayed in the store,” Coles says. Ice cream connectionColes and husband Mike had been visiting the Vail area for years and finally moved here three years ago, each with entrepreneurial goals.

While Micki worked in retail in Edwards for a few years, she always had the idea to open a Christmas store. For the time being Santa’s Collectible is located on West Beaver Creek Boulevard, next door to Agave Restaurant. When the new Quartz Building opens in Edwards across from Starbucks next February, Micki will re-locate, she says.Moving her Christmas shop to Riverwalk in Edwards will not only help with foot traffic shoppers, but will put Micki in closer proximity to Mike Cole’s new ice cream shop.Strickland’s Ice Cream store, located next door to Marko’s Pizzeria in Edwards, opened this past fall. Mike says he got the idea to open the ice cream store after his wife took him to a Strickland’s Ice Cream store in Ohio.When Micki was growing up in Akron, she and her family used to drive 30 minutes once a week to what was then the only Strickland’s Ice Cream Store in the country. “The line for the ice cream used to go around the block, so we’d drive for half-an-hour and then stand in a long line, but the ice cream was so good it was worth the drive and the wait,” Micki says. A few years ago, while visiting Micki’s father in Ohio, Micki took Mike to Strickland’s and after his first bite he was sold, Mike says.

“It was the best-tasting ice cream I’d ever had,” Mike said. “They had just begun selling franchises so I bought the franchise rights for the entire state of Colorado.” Mike opened his first store in Eagle last June and opened the Edwards store in September. If all goes according to plan he’ll have 40 stores throughout Colorado in the not too distant future. Softer, creamier, lower fatBack in 1936 the original owner of Strickland’s had a brother in law who owned a local dairy. Strickland would only use the cream from the dairy to make what was then frozen custard, which required eggs. During WWII, when eggs were rationed, Strickland was known to buy people drinks in the bar as trade for their egg ration cards. Then eggs became even scarcer so Strickland cut out the eggs and began making what is now his famous soft ice cream. Since the ingredients have to be hand fed into the machines and closely monitored, the store only offers four types of soft ice cream each day, two of which are usually chocolate and vanilla. They have a calendar that tells what flavors will be made each day.

Sometimes nuts, candies and fruits are added and the good news is that while most grocery store ice creams have 14 percent butterfat, Strickland’s has only 10 percent. “Some people call our ice cream ‘soft serve’ ice cream, but what it is, is ‘soft’ ice cream,” store manager Kevin Mays says. The machines the ingredients go into push the ice crystals out of the frozen product, creating a softer, creamier, lower-fat ice cream, he says. In addition to ice cream, Strickland’s also has gourmet coffee drinks, smoothies, milk shakes, sundaes, specialty chocolates and soft drinks. Birthday and other specialty cakes can be ordered also, and they usually have fresh ice cream cakes available in their freezer.Vail, Colorado

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