In college, Belk waited tables at The Root Cellar Cafe in San Marcos and loved the customer interaction and the opportunity to please people.
When his friend Rhea Ortamond decided to sell her small ice cream shop in San Marcos, he took the opportunity to learn something new that involved customer service.
Belk spent long days with Ortamond learning all of her secret family recipes and techniques that have been passed down through generations.
“Even when I make a new flavor, I’m still using secret components from her recipes,” Belk said.
After a few years of scooping ice cream in the San Marcos store, Belk and his business partner, Kyle Mylius, decided to expand.
The duo got in a car and drove to New Braunfels and the same day saw a large “For rent” sign in front of a building on Union Avenue. The building was already painted the same “Malted Mint” color as their store in San Marcos.
“We got to this building, and the outside was painted the perfect color,” Belk said. “We called the number that day, toured the spot, and that afternoon we signed the lease.”
Soon after, Tin Top Burgers moved into the room next door, and Belk said they have all become a big family at 283 S. Union Ave.
The location that houses Rhea’s Ice Cream and Tin Top Burgers has a large front yard with picnic tables, yard games and a new wooden pirate ship playscape complete with a skull and crossbones flag.
Rhea’s also has another location in Gruene that opened in 2018 alongside The Gruene Grove.
“Because the industry of ice cream is so old, there are these archetypal memories that are ingrained in generations of people,” Belk said. “You can literally see these memories developing. It’s so thick, you can taste it.”
Belk said he always watches for what he calls “the ice cream smile.”
When a person walks up to an ice cream case, he said, no matter their age they will instinctively start smiling.
Rhea’s Ice Cream
283 S. Union Ave., Ste. 105,New Braunfels
Mon.-Sun. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.