COOK- When God spoke to Moses to deliver the Ten Commandments, Mount Sinai was heavily shrouded in clouds with lightning and thunder.But when He had a message for the Rev. Brian Burton of Cook …
COOK- When God spoke to Moses to deliver the Ten Commandments, Mount Sinai was heavily shrouded in clouds with lightning and thunder.
But when He had a message for the Rev. Brian Burton of Cook Covenant Church, He kept it simple. No theatrics, no list of commandments, no stone tablets. The message was just two words: “Ice cream.”
“I’ve been driving a school bus during the year because I’m a ‘most time’ pastor and I need a little bit of supplemental income,” Burton said. “I was kind of wondering what I would do this summer. The Lord and I have a close relationship because I trust in Jesus Christ his Son, the Savior, and so He speaks to me and I speak to Him, and one day he just gave me the words ‘ice cream.’”
Burton said he knew that didn’t mean to go get some ice cream, but to start an ice cream business. And that’s how the idea for Northern Grace Ice Cream was born.
“There’s Moosebirds, but the townspeople have to make a 20-minute round trip to get any good hand-dipped ice cream,” Burton said. “They’re great and they do a great job, but right here in Cook there was none. And so, I went home and said, ‘Honey, guess what?’”
Honey is his wife, Liz, and she had the reaction one might expect.
“You want to open a what? When? How?” Liz said. “He said it was a clear voice from the Lord, and I said, ‘How clear?’ No, I’m kidding. We follow God’s calling, and this is truly a calling.”
Getting a new $20,000 to $25,000 concession trailer was out of the question, but Brian thought they could convert a cargo trailer to work. The question was, where would they find one that they could afford? The answer, of course, they left up to the Lord.
“It was like the next day, after we prayed about it, saying ‘Lord, just show us,’” Brian said. “We weren’t planning on going to Virginia that day, but somehow we were led to go, and boom, right on Highway 53 we saw this trailer and decided to inquire about it.”
And in one of the “lots of little miracles” Brian said have happened along this path, the seller had exactly the same price in mind as what the Burtons had to spend.
Brian did most of the conversion himself, and the new ice cream trailer passed the required health inspections and was ready to go. Before the Burtons went in search of a trailer, they didn’t know where it would go, but another one of those “little miracles” took care of that, too.
“At first, we were wanting to do a brick-and-mortar place, and one downtown sold before we had a chance to really digest what we were going to do,” Brian said.
But then they spied a possible location, a building that was next to the North Woods Auto Parts store, and while it didn’t have plumbing, it had something better – a Cook Covenant Church connection that Brian didn’t know about.
“It just so happened that somebody in our church owns it,” Brian said. “Dave and Christine Hampson, he runs Timbuktu Marina. Someday he wants to open a boat showroom here, but he said in the meantime to go ahead and put our trailer up here.”
“I could name you ten dozen little miracles along the way, but we’re open, we’re here,” Brian said. “And the whole church has said ‘We’re behind you on this.’”
Business has been brisk since Northern Grace opened, and Brian said they’ve been getting a lot of repeat customers as well as new ones.
And perhaps of surprise to no one, it’s not at all clear how much Brian will take away from Northern Grace Ice Cream in the way of supplemental income. He and Liz have already committed to supporting at least three different community and faith missions – the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the Cook Community Food Shelf, and a mission in Africa to help members of the Masai tribe shift from cattle to crop production to stave off a devastating famine. Some money will also go to pay the Burtons’ daughter, Sydney Bell, who is working at the ice cream stand to earn money to attend Vermilion Community College in the fall.
“There’s a lot of provision in a lot of ways for many people,” Brian said. “And being real honest, how it turns out for us is somewhere down the chain from there.”
To take care of all of that, Northern Grace needs to sell a lot of ice cream, and the first step was committing to carry a dozen flavors of premium Cedar Crest and Kemp’s ice cream.
“We offer very generous portions,” Liz said. “Shakes, floats, and a huge, colossal build-your-own brownie sundae.”
“There’s no bad ice cream or sherbet here,” Brian said. “We are absolutely crazy about every one.”
And quite appropriately, the brand of ice cream cones they settled on is named Joy.
“That fits with Northern Grace, and our little tagline ‘Just a little taste of Heaven,’” Brian said.
Northern Grace opens for business at noon, Tuesdays through Sundays, and is closed on Mondays. They’re open until 8 p.m., with extended hours until 9 p.m., on Wednesdays. For more information about Northern Grace Ice Cream, stop by the stand, check out their page on Facebook, or send an email to email@example.com.