CEA Hospitality Winner: Boombalatti’s Owners Savor Sweet Success

By Lynda Van Kuren, posted May 5, 2023
HOSPITALITY | BOOMBALATTI’S | Kristen & Wes Bechtel, Owners | Year Founded: 2015 | Employees: 40 (Photo by Madeline Gray)
Buying Boombalatti’s Homemade Ice Cream in 2015 was a leap into the unknown for Kristen and Wes Bechtel. 

The couple dreamed of quitting their white-collar jobs to open an ice cream business, but when Boombalatti’s was listed for sale, the time didn’t seem right for the risk. The Bechtels’ daughters were then 6 and 3 years old, and it felt scary to trade financial security for a dream that might or might not succeed. 

Lucky for them, that risk turned out to be the best business decision they ever made. They poured every dollar they owned into the operation, and eight years later, they’ve grown Boombalatti’s into a profitable business with three successful locations and a committed staff of about 40.

From the beginning, the Bechtels focused on creating an experience at Boombalatti’s that matched the quality of the shop’s homemade ice cream, prepared with dairy from grass-fed North Carolina cows without any artificial flavors or colors. They revamped the shop to feel bright and welcoming with friendly customer service, fun merchandise and even the perfect music while customers wait in line to place an order. 

“We’re selling the whole experience of coming to Boombalatti’s,” Kristen Bechtel said. 
“We’ve spent a lot of money on branding. That really was an investment to put us in a different category,” he said. 

This investment has provided Boombalatti’s with year-over-year growth, and many customers cite social media campaigns as the inspiration for their visit. Moreover, Wes Bechtel sees it as a way to potentially grow the brand’s following beyond Southeastern North Carolina.

Looking at other successful craft ice cream businesses like Ohio’s Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Philadelphia’s Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, or Portland’s Salt & Straw, the Bechtels see a common theme: The businesses are establishing a regional presence with locations in multiple states and nationwide shipping. They’ve noticed these operations have no peer in the Southeast, prompting the couple to question whether Boombalatti’s could fill that vacancy. 

Last May, Boombalatti’s began shipping its ice cream nationwide. Today, they have 18 fully branded flavors, dozens of which are mailed to far-flung customers every month. That venture has been as tricky as it sounds, Wes Bechtel said, but it allows the couple to safely explore one possible direction for growth as they mull the future of the business. 

“We’re at this point now where we do have multiple decisions we could make. We could think through the idea of getting into grocery stores and wholesaling. We could think through the franchise model. We could open seven company-owned stores,” Wes Bechtel said. 

No matter which direction the couple ultimately decides to pursue, they are committed to slow and sustainable growth that doesn’t sacrifice the quality of their product – or their quality of life. 

Kristen Bechtel said, “Now we’re at a place where we can enjoy life and grow the business, so we don’t want to jeopardize those two things.”

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