AURORA, Colo. — The ribbon cutting for a new small business is usually cause for celebration. But as the scissors sliced the red piece of fabric stretched across the entrance to Howdy Homemade Ice Cream, it was opening the door to opportunities for many who might not otherwise have them.
“We call our employees ‘heroes’ not employees because that’s exactly what they are,” said store owner Troy Knuckles.
The majority of the employees at this shop on Parker Road have disabilities.
“Honestly, it isn’t about ice cream. We make amazing ice cream, but it’s about creating opportunities for folks with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Creating jobs for them, keeping jobs for them — that’s why we’re here,” Knuckles said.
That includes Ben Levine, who has Down syndrome. He started his very first job at Howdy.
“I feel so excited for this job,” he said.
At the grand opening, Levine greeted customers with a smile, scooping some of Howdy’s famous flavors, like Dr. Pepper Chocolate Chip and Cookie Nom’ster. The Aurora location is now the tenth Howdy location in five different states. It is the first in Colorado.
“Everybody who walks in here walks out feeling better than when they walked in,” Knuckles said.
Levine's parents said the ice cream shop provides their son with the normal life steps of a teenager getting a job, while giving him opportunities to grow and become more independent.
“We weren’t sure how this next phase of his life would go. So this is kind of an exciting opportunity and he’s very excited about it which helps us,” mom Jen Levine said.
Howdy employs 13 heroes in total.