Walter C. “Burli” Hopkins Jr. is a busy man. While owning an ice cream shop on one of the most heavily travelled beach routes might sound like a sweet gig, make no mistake — it’s hard work. Aside from the ice cream shop, the farm produces 2,250,000 gallons of milk per year, supplying 30 local restaurants as well as out-of-state venues.
It’s hard to believe that in the beginning, many investors thought the idea of opening a successful creamery on the Hopkins family dairy farm was impossible. But after three years of research and development, along with three years of “ice cream school,” Hopkins now operates the largest dairy farm in the state.
“The public really embraced us and came in droves. Now it’s a tourist attraction. It’s a stop on the way to the beach,” Hopkins said.
The creamery is located on Hopkins’ great grandfather’s original farm site, which was established in 1942, in the same building where the milk room used to be. But it wasn’t until 2008 when his father, Walter C. Hopkins Sr., came up with the idea to start producing and selling ice cream. Originally, the idea was to open the ice cream shop down the street from the farm, but Hopkins said it’s the farm itself that has made the business boom.
“Had I opened this ice cream shop down there like I originally thought, it would have been just another ice cream shop on Route 9, and honestly I don’t think it would have been nearly as successful,” Hopkins said.
The creamery prides itself on its rich, signature flavor, one developed early on when Hopkins first began mixing his own ice cream. By tweaking the recipe, Hopkins said he was able to create the unique taste customers enjoy today.
“It would say, ‘Put a quart of this for every two gallons of ice cream.’ So I would put a quart and a half. And that was just my thing, take what they say and just add half more,” Hopkins said.
As you walk up to the ordering window, the scent of waffle cones cooking blends with the fresh farm air. Regardless of your favorite flavor (over 25 different kinds of ice cream are offered, with gluten-free options available), the creamery is likely to have it. In the summer, Hopkins even offers seasonal flavors made with local fruit.
With ample parking, a playground, and a designated area to view the cows at work, the creamery is a great family destination, as well as a fun alternative to the normal beach-fare activities and events popular during the summer.
The farm also lends itself to educational opportunities for members of the community unfamiliar with life on a farm. Last year, Hopkins began running tours so people could get the inside scoop on the cow-to-cone process that results in their favorite ice cream.
“Our tours are set up in a sort of slap-in-your-face way. Like, ‘Hey, this is a commercial dairy farm.’ This is how it is. You see it click. They’re either grossed out or they accept it and understand. There’s nothing better than that, that’s for sure,” Hopkins said.
For more information, visit www.hopkinsfarmcreamery.com.