— Although he has been gone for three years, Carrie Allen still hears her father’s voice telling her: “Sweetheart, keep it simple.”
And that is the motto she lives by every day as she keeps his Willy’s Ice Cream open.
Willy’s Ice Cream was voted Best Ice Cream in the News Virginian’s Valley Favorites for 2018.
William McClung opened his ice cream shop 23 years ago when Main Street was only a two-lane road, and Lew Dewitt Boulevard did not yet exist to bring traffic over from Rosser Avenue and Interstate 64.
Allen was a first-grade teacher for Augusta County Public Schools for 13 years before transitioning into the technology field, and going into county schools to teach teachers how to use technology in their classrooms.
In 2012, however, her position was about to be eliminated, she said, and her father’s health was declining.
“So it was just kind of perfect timing,” Allen said.
McClung died in April 2015, but not before teaching Allen, a 1989 graduate of Waynesboro High School, all he knew about making Willy’s Ice Cream and running a small business in a small town.
Just before her father died, Allen said she asked him for advice. She wanted to keep the business going for him.
“He said: ‘Sweetheart, keep it simple.’” He told her that “businesses try to do bigger and better and more and more,” when they do not need to in order to be successful.
He liked that Willy’s offered vanilla, chocolate and twist flavors, and encouraged Allen to remember that simplicity about ice cream.
McClung died just as Allen was opening Willy’s for its 20 th season.
This year, Allen had T-shirts made with the logo “Keep it simple” and ice cream cones of vanilla, chocolate and twist.
Allen said her mother, who still lives in Waynesboro, “was a big part of the business” when her father owned it, and she still helps out by buying soda and water for Willy’s.
But, Allen has taken steps to keep Willy’s up with the times and moving forward. Two years ago, she bought a machine to offer a gluten-free and dairy-free option for customers. If she makes any further improvements, she said she would like for Willy’s to have a drive-through to accommodate customers during the winter months.
Allen said she feels blessed and thankful for the business that her parents began 23 years ago.
“I do this in his honor. I run this business very proudly in honor of my dad,” Allen said.
Allen said she hopes to keep Willy’s in the family. Perhaps her son, Jacob, now a junior at Waynesboro High, and her daughter, Madison, a junior studying business at Old Dominion University, will be interested one day.
“It’s a good little business. It’s a fun place to be,” Allen said.