Featured photo: Imalay Gregory, age-15 Laliah-Ellies, age-15 and Omar Harris, co-owner of Courtside Cuts and The Scoop Ice C.r.e.a.m Shop.
Written by Tanya Terry
The C.R.E.AM. in his business’s name stands for Cash Rules Everything Around Me, according to Omar Harris, co-owner of Courtside Cuts and The Scoop Ice C.r.e.a.m Shop. Harris and his godbrother liked a song by this name and applied the words to their own lives. But these days, it isn’t the cash that motivates Harris and his brother, Montez Brown.
The most popular ice cream flavor at The Scoop is butter pecan, and the most unusual, in Harris’ opinion, is lemon cheesecake. Although both these hand dipped flavors and many others are a hit with customers, along with fresh donuts on the weekends, soft serve lemon and vanilla ice cream and smoothies, what is possibly most unique about The Scoop is the way the business helps others.
What Harris likes most about owning The Scoop is helping young people, and he makes an intentional effort to hire those some overlook because of their age.
“When we were young we went to lock-ins, church functions and things like that,” he said. “We received a lot of free stuff. We don’t know where it came from. We were too young to realize ‘these are volunteers. These people aren’t getting paid. A lot of this stuff, somebody has donated.’ But, growing up in this community, it’s time for us to do the same thing. So, that’s a part of opening the ice cream shop: to give back.”
This year is the third one The Scoop has been open, and Harris continues to encourage other young people to strive for their ambitions through its existence.
“The idea for the ice cream shop actually came from my 13-year-old daughter,” Harris said. “She was 13 at the time, and turning 14 that summer. She wanted to start her own business, which was some sort of fashion business or something along that line. I had this space already available which I had been renovating already. So, I sat down one night and I thought about ‘what could the north side of Flint use that my daughter can be involved in and my kids can be involved in-and other kids in the surrounding area might want to be involved in?’ I came up with an ice cream shop.”
Harris talked to his daughter, Sydney Owens, about the idea, telling her he was also planning to invite other teenage girls and boys to be entrepreneurs. He wanted them to learn to work for themselves, learn about customer service and be able to deal with the world.
“When they get in the real world, it’s hard. It’s real hard. So this is to give them a taste of what’s to come. The goal is to try to get these kids to do something outside of social media and phones if they’re not doing afterschool activities. A lot of the kids that are 16 and up are able to work at McDonald’s, Target or Walmart. But, the kids that are 13-15 are kind of stuck there.”
The young people employed learn opening, closing, shipping & receiving, inventory and payroll, in addition to building customer service skills. They build self confidence. They are also able to do their homework while at work because getting good grades in school is stressed by both owners.
Harris said because this is a “tech world” in which people who are in the same house as each other may text instead of talk, some young people don’t know how to talk to another person and look them in the eyes. On the contrast, the young people employed at The Scoop must look at the individuals they take orders for ice cream and other treats for, as well as be able to answer their questions.
Harris feels since kids in this age group are eager to try to learn something, The Scoop can offer that learning experience.
“It gives them a chance to come out and say ‘I’ve got a job,’ versus leaning towards something wrong.”
The staff also gets paid every two weeks.
“One of the most important things they are learning is how to deal with people. In my two businesses-the barber shop and the ice cream shop-we deal with all walks of life. You need to be able to deal with people, not take everything personal and see how the world functions.”
Harris vividly recalled when one 15-year-old young lady came into the ice cream shop with her aunt. The young lady inquired about a job opening. Harris told her the shop was fully staffed. She asked him to contact her if anyone quit or didn’t want to work and left her phone number. She also said she was very interested in what was being done at The Scoop.
“She stepped to the plate. Everything she did sold me to her. Young adults like that, I’m gonna do whatever I can to help when they’re trying to help themselves…My thing was, let me fit her into this schedule, some kind of way, somehow. It turned out-she’s the best employee we’ve got.”
That young lady’s name is Imalay Gregory, and she is 15 years old.
Brown, as co-owner, said both the ice cream shop and the barber shop supply some type of happiness to the community. For example, he said some people may come to the barber shop and be stressed out. But since the way they communicate in the barbershop is a “brotherhood” they often leave feeling better.
“As far as in the ice cream shop, how many people have you seen eat ice cream upset?” Brown asked, laughing.
“When the customers come and the kids greet them, it gives them a kind of relief,” Brown added. “Every time you see them eating ice cream, they’re smiling. We lift the community up-from the barber shop to the ice cream shop.”
Brown also said when young people see their peer working at The Scoop, it inspires them to want to work. Brown’s sons, Nasir and Deion, couldn’t wait until they were old enough to first help sweep at the Scoop. Deion, who is older, was excited when he became old enough to actually scoop ice cream.
Since the businesses have opened, the Scoop and Courtside have given back every year they were open in other ways, as well. A give back is funded by the owners through their savings, without grants. The kids also give their time voluntarily for the event.
“We try to give away 100 book bags filled with school supplies. We also have offered free haircuts every year. We give out free hot dogs, burgers and ice cream, too…We will be doing it again this year because everybody will be going back to normal.”
Since the owners also have a barber shop and a mobile ice cream shop in Saginaw, their efforts are duplicated there.
The local giveaways typically take place the Sunday before school starts at Courtside Cuts, located at 1107 N Chevrolet Ave and The Scoop, located at 1105 N Chevrolet Ave.
“We’re not doing it for profit. Our reward is when these kids understand that you can create your own dreams. You can be something other than a basketball player or a rapper. You can dream big and reach big. That’s what the Scoop is!”