WEST BRADENTON -- Before the first customer walks in at Tyler's Homemade Ice Cream, Rob Alderson measures out his mint flavoring, a scoop of chocolate chips and enough cream to make a batch of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
After about 10 minutes, a thick river of mint ice cream pours down into a bucket from a machine in which Alderson dumps the semi-sweet chips one layer at a time, mixing them in with a spatula until it's perfect and can be stored in the freezer for later.
Making ice cream by hand is a rare art these days, but it's getting new life after the longtime Cortez ice cream shop opened a second location. The new shop at the Pebble Springs Plaza, 5917 Manatee Ave. W., opened March 13, just as the original location is celebrating 30 years in business at 11904 Cortez Road.
"We're kind of a dying breed of ice cream shops that actually make their own ice cream onsite," said Rob Alderson, who manages and operates the business with his wife, Laura, and father, Dan, since acquiring the store in 2008 from previous owners. The business was founded by Larry and Geri Tyler in 1984.
The ice cream will remain handmade at the Manatee Avenue shop just like at Cortez. It features 38 flavors plus four sugar-free and four sorbet offerings. Tyler's has sold standbys like chocolate chip and coffee ice cream and some more inventive mixes like Blue Moon, offering a cake icing flavor with a blue cotton candy hue or how about the Morello cherry ice cream with the cherry syrup mixed into the batter with a mix of Planters nuts.
The thought of making ice cream at the Cortez store and having it trucked to the West Bradenton shop seemed silly, the Aldersons said, and wouldn't remain true to the store's mission.
"When you walk in this door or walk in the Cortez door, you know that ice cream was made at that shop right there one batch at a time," Rob Alderson said.
The new store will enable the owners to do more community outreach and fun activities, like the silent auction for Anna Maria
Elementary School where the Cortez store offered the chance for a family to come in and make and name their own ice cream to be sold at the store. This year's winner is the Laade family, he said, who want to make a pineapple upside down cake ice cream.
"We definitely want to tap into the Bradenton area schools," he said.
Founding owner Larry Tyler passed along some secrets and tips to the Aldersons early on. Tyler could tell the ice cream was off and found out that 10 percent milk fat was being used instead of the 14 percent after talking with Rob Alderson. The additional fat brings out a richer, creamier ice cream, he said.
"Then he came in a couple days later and he gave me this metal box," he said. "He goes, 'You can use this if you want. This is all my original recipes.'"
Rob Alderson treasures the box and recipes and tries to use the original products Tyler used in 1984 if they're still available. There must be some magic in those old recipes because the business quickly took off after the changes.
"From when we took over five years ago, our sales have increased 30 percent each year," Rob Alderson said.
The success prompted the family to open a new shop inside the former Quizno's. The Aldersons want to see if in-store handmade ice cream can be a successful model for multiple locations one day.
Tyler's also has a wholesale business, providing ice cream to area restaurants and businesses, mainly on Anna Maria Island. That wholesale business has led to a special flavor that you can't buy at the scoop shop. Instead, you'll have to drive to Drum Circle Distilling, 2212 Industrial Blvd., where Siesta Key Rum is made.
One bottle of the spiced rum is enough to make two buckets -- or about 5 gallons -- of Siesta Key Spiced Rum Ice Cream, Dan Alderson said. He highlights some of the natural flavors in the rum like honey and vanilla bean flake to make a special mix. Since there isn't any cooking involved, the alcohol doesn't evaporate, and it doesn't freeze either, leaving the ice cream softer than the other batches.
"You won't get drunk off of it unless you ate a lot of it," Rob Alderson said.
"And if you do, you might get sick from eating so much ice cream anyway," Dan Alderson said.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.