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Revolution Ice Cream Company is truly revolutionary for more reasons than one

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image Revolution Ice Cream Company owner and flavor mixer Bill Workman, left, serves a customer one of his unique ice cream combinations. Photo Penny Fletcher

How about some bacon ice cream? It's called Porky's Delight Bacon Brittle.

By PENNY FLETCHER
 
Getting fired was the best thing that could have happened to Bill Workman last year. Up until then, he had been working all day at a job he was no longer happy with, and staying up all night developing new flavors of ice cream that friends and neighbors said were out of this world … flavors like chocolate habañero and curried coconut. He also makes flavors that include other foods, like banana pudding and bacon.

Yes, bacon. It’s called Porky’s Delight Bacon Brittle.  

Bill happens to have very eclectic tastes, both in the flavors he creates and the ambiance of his store.

This, however, is partially due to his wife Leslee, who comes from the fourth generation of a Tampa family, many of whom have been what Bill describes as “very artsy.”

Walking into the store is like walking into another world. Set back in a plaza at 220 W. Brandon Blvd. (SR 60) between Kings and Parsons Avenues, you wouldn’t think he’d have much of a clientele. But the place stays so packed sometimes that he still stays up making his ice cream all night, although he has graduated from the original Cuisinart ice cream maker that put out three pints at a time to a restaurant-size ice cream maker from which he gets five-gallon batches.

“I finally quit my job and had what I thought was going to be a soft opening so I told people I would be giving away all the ice cream the first four days,” he said.

It didn’t happen that way. Instead, he had more than 650 people in the first four days, without doing any formal advertising at all, just word of mouth and Facebook. Then he held a Grand Opening in April where more than 1,000 attended.

“It was crazy all summer,” he said. “I listed it as a free event online and Twitter and started making ice cream all night again. It was insane trying to keep up with it.”

By this time, he and Leslee were laughing because originally she had asked him if he thought he could support their family of six making ice cream.

“My wife works as a graphic designer for our church,” he said. They attend Relevant Church in Ybor City, where much of her large extended family still lives. “But she works only a day or two a week for pay. You know how it is when you work for a church. An awful lot of your time is volunteered.”

Maybe that’s why their business booms so. The community seems to know the couple is very involved in helping others.

“When I had square jobs, selling insurance and sales and finance and retail, it was different.”

Owning his own shop made it possible to close down when last summer’s tornadoes hit Oklahoma; he and his friend Louis Luv drove straight through for 24 hours, then worked all weekend and drove back. While there, they helped clean up neighborhoods that had been completely leveled and did whatever they could to help meet needs that needed to be met immediately.

Helping others in the community is helping his business as well. He’s held “food truck rallies” in the parking lot, where vendors come sell their wares to make money for ECHO, a Brandon help center, and recently gathered more than 100 toys for local children who didn’t fit into the regular programs of most agencies. The food drive raised more than 900 pounds, all of which stayed nearby to help local poor, he said.

But that isn’t all.

His walls are filled with the work of local artists and photographers, just about all of which is for sale.

“Except those up there,” he said pointing to a photograph of his wife’s great-grandmother when she was a child and another young handsome man who also passed away long ago.

Another thing on his walls is a map of the world filled with black push pins. When asked what it stood for, he said each pin was from a place where customers had come from. Although most of them came from all over Florida and the East Coast, especially New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, there were pins from the Hawaiian Islands, Australia and New Zealand and the Samoan Islands.  

“I’ve had more customers from Russia than from Wyoming,” he joked. “I don’t get many people from that part of the country.” Midwestern North America seemed to be the spot on the map most devoid of pins. Laughing, he said, “I only had two from Russia, but still, that is more than from Wyoming.”

They come for the revolutionary flavors and return for their favorites, plus the unusual atmosphere.

He said he couldn’t help naming the place the Revolution Ice Cream Company because of the revolutionary flavors. Without giving away any trade secrets, he did tell me that his Drunken Brownies featured Chardonnay and caramel and mixing two and three flavors in one bowl is often done to make a special mix-and-match of favorites as well.

While enjoying their ice cream, children can play in a play area with chalkboards and toys, and parents and older folks can listen to music — which is always part of their day.

It’s mostly music from the 1970s on until today’s, Bill explained. He handles the ’70s and ’80s and his wife handles the music of today, he said.

Or people could go through a rare collection of books he has collected over the years.

“I had the original edition of Bambi I found at a yard sale once,” he said. “And then someone told me what it was.”

Although Bambi is no longer on the shelf, the History of Florida, a 1904 book written by GR Fairbanks, tells about an era beginning when President Andrew Jackson “took” Florida and was listed as Governor for one year (1821) until the first election. Other books that made history, like Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Stories and at least 50 others, could also keep a customer coming back for days.

At 37, Bill says he’s certain he’s found his calling. He and his wife and family operate the small store, make the ice cream and tend to all the business affairs themselves.

“A funny thing happened two days before I opened,” he said. “I heard Jerry Greenfield from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream was speaking at USF. I went, but you had to have tickets and I didn’t have one. So I stood around looking very sad and somebody gave me one.”

He laughed out loud. “Then I actually ended up talking to Jerry. I told him I was about to open an unusual ice cream shop and he talked with me awhile. He was a real regular person.”

Not long after he had opened, he had some secret diners from restaurant reviews that are framed and posted on his wall.

He also got a write up in Southern Living magazine.

“It was an honor, but it’s so widespread. I like the idea of being in the local papers,” he said.

To find out about his hours, flavors or for general information, email bill@revicecream.com or call 813-857-3250.

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