One cannot be a resident of Valparaiso without the name Valpo Velvet triggering some pleasant and tasty memories of yesterday, a place where generations of friends, families and significant others have spent their time enjoying the tasty dishes and creating life long memories.
Valpo Velvet's owner, Mike Brown has spent a majority of his life as part of Valpo Velvet since the early days when it was known as Brown's Dairy owned then by his father.
"I grew up and have lived in Valpo my entire life," said Brown. "I worked for my father back when we were called Brown's Dairy until we became Brown's Ice Cream Parlor back in 1973."
The reason for this name switch came from a lessening need for dairy markets due to more people purchasing their simple items like milk and eggs from supermarkets.
"There was eventually not much need for a dairy store," says Brown. "Our route business was reduced and we eventually sold the business to Dixie Dairy."
After opening Brown's Ice Cream Parlor, business began to develop more frequently with Brown's being one of the few locations to eat in the then smaller and less populated downtown Valparaiso.
"I was twelve years old when we first opened," says Brown. "Back then we had only three or four places to eat out at in a much smaller downtown than we have right now."
Brown learned from his father all of the techniques required to run a restaurant business. From serving diners to learning how to make ice cream from scratch, Brown learned all of the essential tricks and techniques required to create a dedicated customer base.
"It really changed considerably back then going from a small dairy that sold milk and eggs to a full-fledged restaurant," says Brown. "We went from serving our customers over the counter to serving them at tables. We went from just a few of us to hiring cooks, waitresses and bus boys."
These years of dedication in serving the Valparaiso community have led to Browns level of success today, where his years of finely studying and understanding the craft of making customers and the community happy.
"Everyday starts at 7 am for me," said Brown. "I make a mix of the ice cream and finish around 2 pm," says Brown. "Around 2 pm I spend time working on office and administrative work with the following days spent freezing the ice cream. While making the mix is a one man job, freezing requires two people."
Brown's schedule picks up significantly in the summertime where the demand for ice cream is at its highest. A typical work week can extend up to six days a week, making his day completely filled and dedicated to running both the Valpo Velvet location and ensuring that their various flavors of ice cream are successfully shipped across Northwest Indiana.
Brown spends his free time with family and friends and going out to dinner at one of the many restaurants in Valparaiso's downtown.
"It's a much bigger change compared to years ago, there have been some very positive changes brought to Valpo's downtown," says Brown. "Mayor Costas has done a heck of a job building it up."
For Brown his drive to continue to serve the community comes from his love of his customers who he considers the primary reason he enjoys his job so much.
"The customers are the best part of this job, " says Brown. "They're the reason I keep doing this and the reason I enjoy this job so much. They allow me to do my best for them and give them the quality that keeps them coming back.
And for the burning question on everyone's mind: Brown's favorite flavor of ice cream is chocolate almond.