After six years as an employee and manager at Tate’s Ice Cream in downtown Wheaton, 22-year-old Lucas Bingham bought the store from his former boss and officially became the new owner Feb. 29.
Bingham is no stranger to Wheaton. After graduating from Wheaton North High School in 2008, he studied auto technology in Michigan but ultimatley decided it wasn't for him and came back home. He returned to his job at Tate’s, and when the former owner said she wanted to sell the business, he realized he couldn’t think of anything he’d rather do than buy it.
“This is where I was comfortable,” he said.
He ran the numbers, put together a business plan and found enough investors to make his move. “To my surprise, I was actually able to get multiple people interested right away,” Bingham said. Banks denied Bingham for a loan since he had no credit history—he's only 22. But after putting together a business plan he found that others were willing to invest in his future success.
Bingham's vision for Tate's is a place where customers feel welcome and where everybody knows his name.
“I want to get to the point where everyone who comes through that door will know who I am, and I know who they are,” said Bingham.
His special touch reaches beyond the front door, too. It's all about tender, love and care at Tate's. Bingham and his staff make all of their ice cream and waffle cones in-house. That labor of love equates to about 42 tubs of ice cream, three times a week.
The store opened for the season a few weeks ago and it's been hectic as the new leader. Unlike his previous five-hour shifts, now Bingham is accustomed to 13-hour days with all new tasks to manage. For Bingham, he said the most difficult part is ordering enough of the right ingredients.
"I do have to say I made a bit of an error on some orders—ordered some products I didn’t need or ordered the wrong sprinkles—but it’s been a learning experience and I have to take the good with the bad," he said.
As Bingham takes on his new role one scoop at a time, he hopes all the customers will turn into lifelong friendships.
"You develop a friendship—more than just an acquaintance—that is the absolute most important part, and that is what I think people really like about Tate’s."