“Homemade ice cream unlike any you’ve ever had,” is a phrase heard around the community when talking about the newly opened ice cream shop on the Square in Jasper.
Matt Sanders, owner and resident-ice cream expert at Libby’s Gourmet Ice Cream, has taken about twenty years to perfect his ice cream. “I’ve been making ice cream since I was 15,” he explained. “There in the beginning I was like ‘wow, I can make my own ice cream anytime I want’, and just started making it all the time.”
From the humble beginnings of a cheap-plastic ice cream maker and rock-salt, Matt began to experiment with creating his own flavors. According to Matt it wasn’t long before his homemade recipes quickly surpassed his dad’s. “Yeah, when we were at family get-togethers, I would taste the ice cream and know he hadn’t used my recipes,” Matt laughs. “I would say ‘c’mon dad, why aren’t you using my recipe. It’s better.’”
But the first step to what has culminated in the shop now located in the northwest corner recently vacated by Chocolate Bliss (who moved to a larger building on the southeast corner) began in middle school. “I remember my seventh grade science class. The teacher, Mr. McCallister, made homemade ice cream. It was probably the first time I ever had it and I was like ‘gosh,’” he explains.
Matt and his wife, Libby, an emergency room nurse at Indiana University Health Bedford Hospital and namesake for the store, are both from Bedford, Indiana. Before starting the shop Matt was the general manager at PDQ Rentals. He moved to Jasper just recently after driving down from Bedford for about 14 years.
Through his love of ice cream he continued to churn out new flavors. He had dreamed of owning his own ice cream shop but over the past couple of years the idea began to solidify as he found more and more people who loved his ice cream.
Then, Libby purchased an electric ice cream maker for Matt that could produce about a gallon and a half of ice cream each batch without the mess or expense of rock-salt. The new machine invigorated Matt’s flavor experimenting. “I could quickly whip out a new batch and then share it with friends and family or bring it to work to try it out on them and see what they liked.”
Eventually, Matt began packaging and selling the homemade ice cream to the same people who tried those early experiments and the shop idea really started to become reality.
This past spring Matt was told about the vacant spot on the square by his friends Steve and Christy Gordon, owners of Grounded Natural Foods. The store was in the perfect place according to Matt and, with his wife supporting him 100 percent, he began searching for deals on equipment he would need for the new business.
After installing the freezers and decorating the store over about two months, Libby’s opened on Saturday, July 27 at 11 a.m.; 600 customers later that same day, Matt was forced to close the shop when he ran out of ice cream.
Libby’s 22 flavors listed on a chalkboard on the shop wall include the traditional ones like butter pecan (he roasts his own pecans), chocolate mint, vanilla, cherry and, of course, chocolate. But then there’s maple bacon. A spoonful of Matt’s smooth ice cream flavored with maple and floating bits of real bacon mixed in. It’s like dipping french fries into a milkshake but only better, because it’s bacon.
It takes a lot of work to create something great even with simple ingredients like milk, sugar, and cream. Matt doesn’t bemoan the work that went into maple bacon other than to say it takes a lot of maple to get the flavor, but a couple of flavors were very hard to get just right. Including one of his favorites, cherry cordial. “That probably took the longest, I really jacked it up trying to figure out what really is cherry cordial,” he explains. “In fact, some of it was really good but just wasn’t cherry cordial. It became the very cherry.”
The one you won’t see on the menu anytime soon. “Black raspberry was probably my least favorite. Some people liked it but it was a nightmare. It had so many seeds in it and we had to strain it and strain it, but man, as far as bad flavors, naw, it’s ice cream,” Matt laughs.
Five star ratings now adorn his Facebook Page from satisfied customers. By the look of the crowds at the door over the Strassenfest, Matt appears to be on his way to adding another successful business to Jasper and Dubois County.
He is open at 609 Main Street Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday 12 to 6 p.m. Libby’s Gourmet Ice Cream can be found on Facebook here and contacted at 481-2025.
Matt’s smile is huge and sincere when customers come in and begin trying his carefully crafted ice cream. This fun-loving 80s kid is having a great time. It’s apparent when his phone rings and the familiar tune from the Nintendo classic game “Zelda” fills the air instantly transporting any other 30-something in the room back to that time of frustration and fun.
And as far as future flavors, “I am thinking of trying a tomato basil or maybe a jalapeno,” he said. “Maybe at home first though.”