NEJC Faces: Mely Ballard, Prairie Village frozen treat legend

By Tommy Sherk

Mely Ballard, owner, Mely’s Ice Cream and Yogurt at Corinth Square

Mely_Port

How long have you been in this business?

MB: Just 30 years. I’m the original owner and started up this place, and there’s no family member to take over.

I grew up in the Philippines. I came in 1979. I came for opportunities that I would never get if I was still in the Philippines. I used to help my brother in Chinese fast food and we got the chance to go to a restaurant show. There was a lot of frozen yogurt, and at that time, it was starting to become very popular. We got the chance to try it, and it was very good, and we decided to test market it at Oak Park Mall. Everybody liked it, so from then on, we started looking for a location, and this is what I found.

Why’d you start Mely’s?

MB: I just wanted to be in business, and I didn’t care what kind of business. The business factor has to come first; if you do not know how to run this business, you will not be here this long. With that comes people. It’s nice to serve four generations. It’s nice to see kids that I’ve served many years ago. In the summers, kids come back home, they come and get some ice cream, and I’m still here!

I like to see my customers often. When I do see them, it’s like I’m part of the family, or they’re part of my family. This is a very nice neighborhood. We are very close to schools, a grocery store and a hardware store. Excellent neighborhood. It’s a very wealthy zip code.

My favorite moment is when I’m making money. That’s what I’m in the business for. Making money is a measure of success in some ways. Meeting a lot of people is another measure of success, especially if you’re serving four generations.

What do you think are key factors in maintaining your business?

MB: A lot of things and everything. Being nice to your customer. Hopefully being able to serve what they need. Being able to offer products that are different, like we do gingerbread houses at Christmas. That’s different. Look at the different kinds of cones I’ve got. Where do you find an ice cream shop with that many cones? Not in this area.

I really don’t have any employees at all. Just me.

What happens if you’re sick one day?

MB: Well, I don’t know. I haven’t been sick yet. We’re open seven days a week, but in January we close for about a week or two. It’s not ideal that I’m working seven days, but that’s the way it is sometimes. You have to make everything work. It’s like, if you have to take two jobs, you take two jobs, and not depend on somebody else to make a living for you.