After 35 years dishing out frozen treats to loyal customers at her Corinth Squre shop, Prairie Village fixture Mely Ballard is set to retire Dec. 31.
Ballard said she’s sold her shop to new owners, but she wants to leave it to them to announce their plans. She has heard that they plan to make their own ice cream under a new business name — but they do plan to continue selling André’s Chocolate, a staple in her shop.
“The business has been profitable — and you know, that’s why you get into business, is to make money — but I think the best part of it is the people around here,” she said of her decades running Mely’s Yogurt & Ice Cream.
With her longevity in business, she’s starting to see third and even fourth generation customers patronizing the store.
“They’re like family,” she said of her customers. “It’s nice to see kids go to college, come back and they’re professionals, and then they come back with their kids. And some of them who have gone and live out of town now, whenever they’re in town, they stop by to say hello, and that’s a pleasure. It’s always nice to see what they’ve done for themselves.”
Born Mely Ong in the Philippines, Ballard came to the United States 40 years ago to pursue opportunities. She first opened the shop at 4051 Somerset Drive on Sept. 15, 1985.
“I will never have a chance to do business like I have the last 35 years had I been in the Philippines,” she said. “[It] was kind of hard to just jump in with your two feet, not knowing what will happen, but just want[ing] it to happen. And I’ve learned a lot over the years.”
After a few years in business, Ballard started looking for ways to increase sales during the cold months. She took a cake decorating class and found that the gingerbread houses were very popular and decided to try them out. The first year, she sold 25. For the past few years, she’s been selling anywhere from 500 to 600 each winter, with each house made to order.
Ballard has been the committed force behind the shop over the past three decades, often putting in 15-hour workdays to give herself time to bake and do paperwork for orders. And although she’s retiring, she says she’ll still be around. She’s going to keep selling gingerbread houses, peanut brittle and other treats with a new business she’s started — Mely’s Sweets and Treats, which she will run out of her kitchen at home.
“I love doing my gingerbread houses, and my peanut brittle is very good,” she added. “I have no intention at this point to expand it, I just want to be able to do it when I want to.”
She’ll continue leading gingerbread house decorating parties with the city of Prairie Village as a fundraising opportunity for children to participate in summer activities. The next decorating party is 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Briarwood Elementary, 5300 W. 86th St., Prairie Village. The deadline to reserve a spot is Wednesday.
Ballard will also stay involved with the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, which she helped start at Corinth Square. She recently received a Prairie Village Community Spirit Award. She has enjoyed 25 years of marriage with her husband, Bob Ballard, and she has several step-children.
“Thank you, Prairie Village,” Ballard said. “Thank you for the last 35 years. I’m very honored to be able to serve four generations. I made a lot of friends. It will be bittersweet, but it’s time to go.”