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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Scott Kull: The new Director of Athletics
Abigail Taylor, Contributing Writer • April 16, 2024

Howdy from Asheville: Wofford student’s family opens ice cream shop featuring employees with disabilities

Photo courtesy of WLOS News 13.
Maddie Brewer’s father, Pete Brewer, and sister Annie Brewer.
Photo courtesy of WLOS News 13. Maddie Brewer’s father, Pete Brewer, and sister Annie Brewer.

“We believe every human being strives to pursue happiness. Our goal is to better enable all members of our society to engage in that pursuit and lead by example for other employers interested in doing the same,” said Betsy Brewer. “Every day we will embrace our motto of ‘inspiring all of us to realize the potential in each of us.’”

Wofford student Madeline “Maddie” Brewer ‘23 is a member of her family’s pretty sweet business. The Howdy Homemade Ice Cream brand has partnered with the Brewer family to open its first Asheville, North Carolina location. 

Howdy Homemade Ice Cream is an ice cream shop company based out of Dallas, Texas that specializes in recruiting, training, retaining and promoting workers with disabilities. The brand hires disabled people to perform most, if not all, of the tasks for its shops. 

The founder, Tom Landis, started the company to change the way society views adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Betsy Brewer, Maddie’s mother, said that when she made the trip out to Texas to meet Landis and his employees, she knew that it was something she wanted her family to entrepreneurially pursue in Asheville.

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Her aspirations have become a reality, and the Asheville shop is set to open on May 28, 2022. 

The Brewer family has taken on the task alongside Ginny Ostgaard, a local special education teacher at Koontz Intermediate School. For the Brewers, this isn’t about a business venture, but about family. Maddie’s sister, Annie Brewer, has autism herself.

“As we share our plans for Howdy Homemade with friends and neighbors, the positive response from the Asheville community has been heart-warming and energizing,” Betsy said.

“The mission is to hire 80% people with disabilities, either intellectual or developmental,” Maddie said. “The point was to hire people who would normally struggle finding a job due to their disability or limited capabilities” 

Howdy Homemade Ice Cream hires individuals who have neurological disabilities such as Down’s syndrome or autism, as well as other disabilities, including deafness or the lack of the ability to control an arm. 

“A lot of local families have kids or adult children who have disabilities and are limited to bagging at grocery stores, so (my parents) wanted to open up a business where there is not just a more variety of jobs, but potential for promotion,” Maddie said. “So they actually could move up in the ranks.” 

The Howdy Homemade Ice Cream shops have three levels of employees, based on the level of disability a person has, allowing them to accomodate to each individual’s needs and abilities. 

Level one employees are those with more limitations, like Annie, who face more mental challenges than physical. She can, for example, learn how to make milkshakes, but isn’t necessarily able to operate the register. 

Level two employees have less limitations and are able to run a register, but aren’t able to manage other employees. 

Finally, level three employees are those who can manage positions in leadership or the shop by themselves. These individuals are more neurotypical or neurotypical- passing. 

Maddie is a level three employee and will be spending the soon-arriving summer working at her family’s shop, helping it to get off the ground. 

While the shop employs individuals with disabilities, they still have the same expectations that any other employee would have, such as showing up on time and completing assigned tasks. 

Howdy accommodates for the things that their employees are not able to do, not what they don’t want to do. 

Brewer explained that it was the question of Annie’s future after high school that inspired her parents to “create a business not only where she could work, but (where) other people like her could work.”

“For years my parents were wondering what (was) going to happen when (Annie) graduates high school, because she’s not allowed to be in high school past the age of 21 and she’s turning 20 this year,” Maddie said. 

Howdy Homemade Ice Cream has become Brewer’s parents’ passion. Her father, a once college professor, is now a master ice cream maker. 

“He would have never thought that an ice cream certificate would be more important to him than his doctorate, but it is.” Maddie said. 

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