By Nichole Livengood, Contributing Writer:
TRAVELERS REST, S.C. — From the pink golf cart she drives back and forth to work to the hot pink hair in a wave on top of her head, Jessica McCall Randall definitely marches to the beat of her own drum. Known as 'Cool Mama' around town, she has become a fixture in the Travelers Rest community since opening her ice cream shop on Main Street a year ago.
A few months back, Randall changed the shop name to Pink Mama’s Ice Cream, for trademarking purposes. “Like Bon Jovi says, ‘It’s all the same! Only the name has changed,’” she jokes. Little kids still point and wave, “Hey mom! That’s Cool Mama!” when they see her around town, and even adults look on with admiration at this short, funky, powerhouse of a woman who has turned her little ice cream truck into a successful ice cream business.
“Our store motto is 'If it’s legal and involves ice cream, we can do it,'" she says. “We’re a classic ice cream parlor with a sprinkle twist.”
The ice cream cooler is full of Hershey’s brand favorites, and Randall has started throwing in a few original homespun flavors — like Lavender and White Chocolate, Unicorn Dream and the popular Pink Mother Load — as well. They also make homemade ice cream sandwiches and "Brookies", a brownie and chocolate chip cookie hybrid. They also just added ice cream cakes to the menu.
“We make killer Banana Splits, too” says Randall, adding that several regulars blow off lunch and just go for the banana split. “This is a judgement free zone.”
But ice cream wasn’t always the dream. Randall grew up in a rough neighborhood north of Detroit. Her father was originally from South Carolina, so the McCall family traveled back and forth all the time.
“I never wore what everybody else wore, and I never looked like everybody else!” she says. Gifted with a welcoming personality, though, she seems to fit in no matter where she lands. Randall came to Greenville for college. It’s where she met her husband of eighteen years, Jon. He was a Greenville native, so Greenville is where they stayed.
Her career led her through jobs in radio and television, and for a while as a swim coach. She eventually took a job with the Greenville County School System. After her son, Seth, was born she decided to change things up a bit. She wanted to build something for her family that would last.
“My best friend and I talked about owning a pink glitter race car,” she says.
Jessica settled on an ice cream truck instead.
“I wouldn’t send my kid out to an ice cream truck, so I thought, why not start my own.”
She traded her husband his work van for her Astro and outfitted it for an ice cream truck. The truck was decorated with hot pink dots and had a Hello Kitty on the side with afro puffs on each side of her head. She drove around neighborhoods and parks selling shaved ice and the old fashioned flavors of ice cream that the trucks used to sell back in the day: Mickey Mouse, Screwball, and Ice Cream Sandwiches. She started getting bookings to bring her truck to birthday parties.
“The truck was mom owned and operated, so moms knew it was safe,” she says of her immediate popularity. In the beginning she was working full time for the school district and running the truck on weekends. After a couple of years, she was turning away so much business, she decided to quit her job and run the truck full time. She started working the Trailblazer Park events in Travelers Rest, and all the while researching what people wanted, and what gap she could fill in the market.
A space opened on Main Street in Travelers Rest at just the right time. “We had this idea for a “Candyland Glam” ice cream shop. We wanted to open a place that would become a family tradition,” she says. “We had to give it a shot. We thought, if it works out, then great, but if not, then we can at least say we tried.”
“People knew us from the park and they were so excited about what was coming in,” she says. Randall signed a lease January of 2015 and opened for business on March 19, 2015.
But Randall had no idea how much of a part of her family her new community would become.
She was at a community function when she first met Travelers Rest Mayor Wayne McCall. She thought it was funny that he shared her maiden name, and Randall couldn’t wait to call her dad and tell him about the coincidence.
“I told my dad that the mayor’s last name was McCall, and out of the blue my dad said, ‘He could be my half-brother.’” Randall was dumbfounded. Her father had never spoken about having a half-brother.
At the grand opening for her ice cream shop, Randall and the mayor started connecting the dots. He inquired about her grandfather’s first name, but she couldn’t remember. The mayor was back in the shop for a birthday party when Randall finally told him her grandfather’s name. “I told him my grandfather’s name was Sydney, and I told him that he could possibly be my dad’s half-brother.”
Randall said the mayor’s eyes filled with tears and he said, “Bobby?”
Indeed, the two were half-brothers, long separated by family circumstance.
“We all got goose bumps, and Wayne started crying,” she said, adding that he then proceeded to tell everyone that he had been looking for his half-brother for thirty years.
Jessica’s parents happened to be in town, so she called her dad to come see his half-brother. There was much hugging and many tears. “They look so much alike, it’s crazy,” Randall says.
“It’s fate we are here. We found a family we didn’t know we had. By opening the shop, we brought my father and Wayne together. They’d been looking for each other their whole lives," Randall said.
A month after the shop opened, Randall and her family moved to Travelers Rest, just a golf cart ride away from the shop. She moved Seth to the local schools, and her husband quit his job, making Pink Mama’s Ice Cream a full-fledged family-run, locally owned business. “We are excited to be a part of the Travelers Rest community. We wouldn’t be where we are without this community we now call home,” she says.
Pink Mama’s Ice Cream is located at 11 S. Main St. in Travelers Rest, next door to the Cafe at Williams Hardware. They are open Sunday - Thursday noon - 9:30pm and Friday & Saturday 11am - 10pm.
For more information, or to book the Pink Mama’s Ice Cream Truck, call 864-905-4849 or visit pinkmamasicecream.com.