The Poulos family has been synonymous with Homer's ever since it opened on Green Bay Road in 1935.
Through countless special occasions, Little League celebrations and birthdays, the family-run ice cream parlor hasn't been content to rest on its laurels. It's expanded into grocery stores, a few hundred restaurants and even a growing mail-order and online business. But it still all revolves around just one thing: terrific ice cream.
While times change, some things are better left unchanged. That's pretty much the business plan at Homer's Homemade Gourmet Ice Cream in Wilmette, where they just celebrated their 75th anniversary.
"First it starts with the philosophy. My dad being in this area in the North Shore told us -- and I remember it distinctly -- he said, "These people around here are wealthy, they're affluent and they have... they've been all around the world. You're not going to fool them because they've had the best of things,'" said Dean Poulos, owner of Homer's.
So Poulos, like his dad, has had an almost zealous regard for the foundation of any respectable ice cream shop.
"It starts with the cream of the ice cream. The formulation of our mix is specific to us, and we get that made by a dairy according to our specifications," said Poulos.
Homer's sells super-premium ice cream, which has a butterfat content of about 14 or 15 percent butterfat. It's not just the cream though, it's the devotion to seasonal fruit. This time of year, that means peach; prairie berry is another summertime treat, and peppermint brings back memories for older generations. There are extra-thick malts as well, even homemade sorbet, like a deeply intense black raspberry. Poulos says looking back, he never thought he'd still be here, working like he always does on Green Bay Road.
"Never, I never wanted to be a part of it. I hated it. My dad would force me to come down and work. My friends on hot summer days like this were saying, 'C'mon we're going to be the beach,' which is right down the street. And I'd say, 'Dad can I go to the beach?' And then he'd say, 'This is when we make ice cream. You can go to the beach in the winter. This is when we make money,'" Poulos said.
Of his four kids, there is one son who is interested in the business. Poulos hopes he'll keep the remarkable streak going.
"It wasn't until, as you get older, that you start punching somebody else's time clock and that you start to appreciate the family business," said Poulos.
Homer's Ice Cream
1237 Green Bay Road, Wilmette