Business & Development, Springfield

Straight to the pint: Young entrepreneur makes Downtown pop with vibrant, new ice cream shop

SPRINGFIELD — What’s the scoop on Main Street? You might ask PJ Smith, 19-year-old owner of Mr. Ice Cream — a real cone artist who is one of Springfield’s newest and youngest entrepreneurs. 

Since opening in September, Mr. Ice Cream at 230 Main St. has added a vibrancy to Main Street with a style Smith akin to a vintage barber shop. With a holiday snowman suffering from brain freeze inflated outside his shop to color pops of red, teal, and blue hues inside, “It’s just a nice little ray of sunshine on the block — that’s definitely what we try to do,” Smith said. 

Mr. Ice Cream sells Umpqua brand ice cream and has unique specialties like ice cream nachos complete with waffle cone chips and ice cream pies.

For Smith, a Springfield High School 2022 alumnus, inspiration struck at an early age, after being surrounded by a family of Lane County entrepreneurs. 

He says that he had always dreamed of having a business of his own.

“Before, it was a whirlwind of ideas,” Smith said. “The whole game was really just, I wanted something simple that people would like … Simple, that would have a positive effect on the community.”

After much contemplation, he landed on opening an ice cream shop two years ago. 

“There’s not a real way that I landed on an ice cream shop. But, as soon as I did, I was in love with it. As soon as it popped into my head, from whatever light bulb was flying above me at that moment, I knew it was perfect,” Smith said.

Smith captured his dream just one year after graduation.

His parents own the building that Mr. Ice Cream is located in what is historically known as the Master Woodsmen Lodge or Masonic Temple. Smith says he knew early on in the planning of Mr. Ice Cream that he would open the shop on Main Street next door to his parents’ tattoo parlor, Queen Bee Tattoo and Salon, located in their building.

“Timing-wise, a lot of things had to land perfectly because this space was not a restaurant before,” Said his mom, Erin Smith. “I would say it came together really fast with a lot of planning and a lot of luck.”

One heavy task still remained. The perfect name stood as a large job for Smith. 

He said he knew he wanted a straightforward name so customers knew exactly what his restaurant would serve. 

“In the beginning, we wanted to keep it just as simple as possible,” Smith said. “No complications. When people walk in here, we don’t want them to be confused.”

After graduating high school, he took on a job at Five Guys, where he learned the ins and outs of the food industry. 

“I was taking pictures of the back of the kitchen and taking note of the kind of stuff they would buy to keep stuff clean,” Smith said. “I would try to apply it to this little project here.”

When Smith opened the shop just in time for the Downtown BLOCK Party — a downtown community celebration that closes off Main Street — he said he had nonstop customers for the whole five hours of the event. 

“As soon as the BLOCK Party started it was just boom, boom, boom,” Smith said. “Five straight hours. Just a line out the door down the block. Everyone was getting ice cream.”

From Pump Cafe owner, 20-year-old Thurston grad Chloe Nossaman, to 19-year-old Smith, young entrepreneurs are becoming a common theme in Downtown Springfield. With the introduction of Smith’s shop on Main Street, those at the Springfield Chamber of Commerce welcome the business with open arms. 

“We’ve been looking for an ice cream shop here in Springfield for a while,” said Paige Walters, director of advocacy and economic development for the Springfield Chamber of Commerce. “We’re thrilled and wish them much success.” 

As December wraps its frigid arms around the community, “there’s a little bit of concern,” business may slow down, Smith said. “But I usually tend to go glass half-full on most things. I think we’re going to do pretty well.” 

In addition to walk-in customers, Smith has expanded services to include delivery services with Grubhub and DoorDash to help drum up business. He hopes that during the winter months, this will increase sales and help with a possible slowdown of walk-in customers.

In the future, he hopes that Mr. Ice Cream on Main Street in Downtown Springfield is the first of many locations.

“I think one day, we can have many Mr. Ice Creams,” Smith says, “This could be the first of many. Really. On a wide-scale goal, that would be really great.”



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