Sweets company aims for regional plan

Between getting degrees in biology and psychology and taking punches in the ring at Richard Lord's Boxing Gym as the state's first professional woman boxer, Amy Simmons, owner and founder of Amy's Ice Creams, opened an ice cream shop.

"I just wanted to be successful, and in that era it felt like to be a visible, successful woman, you had to be a professional," Simmons said.

While in school, Simmons said she worked at the Harvard Primate Center and Tufts Medical School with an isolated, research-driven focus, but she missed interactions with people.

"I missed people, so I worked in an ice cream store for fun and money," Simmons said. "It has never caught on, but I have always called ice cream mental health food. People don't just come in because they are hungry. They come because they are celebrating with their family, they just had a test or they went to the dentist. It is a way to commune with people."

Simmons said she was working out a way to pay for medical school when she was given the opportunity to open and manage an ice cream store with Steve's Ice Cream in Manhattan.

"I just thought I would defer med school and earn a little money," Simmons said. "But the reality was that I was keeping childhood going for a little longer."

After opening another Steve's Ice Cream in Miami, Simmons met Scott Shaw, and together they opened Amy's Ice Creams.

"We wrote a business plan and were going to open in London," Simmons said. "We went to London, and the economy was bad, the weather was terrible and you had to buy your lease up front."

Simmons read about Austin and the booming tech industry. She visited the area and said she fell in love.

"New England and Boston were the highest consumers of ice cream in the country, and a lot of the customers were tech people," she said.

She opened Amy's Ice Creams in 1984 with an atmosphere and culture that has become the epitome of Austin for many people. Part of that culture was inspired by Simmons' time with Steve's Ice Cream, she said.

She said the culture is something she learned from her previous experiences, but the creativity and entertainment the staff provides is encouraged and varies from employee to employee.

In 1986 Shaw left the company, and Simmons said she had to re-evaluate her priorities, something she said she does every three years.

"I started evaluating what I wanted from life," Simmons said. "The reality is three things make me tick: The relationships with the employees and the opportunity to educate and care for them, the opportunity to help the community, and the relationships with the customers."

In her most recent re-evaluation, Simmons said she is content to make Amy's Ice Creams a regional business that operates related businesses.

Simmons plans to open Baked by Amy's in October next to an Amy's Ice Creams location in the Arboretum.

"We are working on the logo and testing the product [right now]," Simmons said.

The bakery will feature sweets and desserts that will also be used as ingredients for Amy's Ice Creams, she said.

In addition to the bakery, Simmons said she wants to have a business education center under the Amy's business umbrella in the next two years.

Amy's has 14 stores, 12 of which are in the Austin area, and Simmons said she does not want to stop to relax just yet.

"Our goal is to be a 100-year-old store," she said.


Amy's Ice Creams founder Amy Simmons (right) said she loves the regionality of the United States.

"There is something to be said for being able to find the same things everywhere. There is comfort in that," Simmons said.

Simmons said she does not envision Amy's leaving the Texas region, but if someone wanted to open an Amy's in New Orleans, she would listen.

'America's Got Talent'

A few employees from Amy's Ice Creams were selected to perform on the NBC reality television series, "America's Got Talent."

The four-person crew worked out a 90-second routine to display their skills at scooping ice cream.

The team did not make it on the televised version of the show but did perform in front of the judges.

Amy's Ice Creams

Hill Country Galleria, 13420 Galleria Circle, Bee Cave, 512-263-2903, www.amysicecreams.com

Amy's Ice Creams

Mira Vista, 2805 Bee Caves Road, Rollingwood, 512-328-2697, Twitter: @amysicecreams