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Shawano’s Miller’s Cream ‘n Dough expands to brick and mortar

Miller’s Cream ‘n Dough churns ice cream with John Deere engine horsepower

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October 17, 2023

SHAWANO – Put the words putt putt together, and most people would likely think of mini-golf.

However, for Jacob Miller, owner of Putt Putt Ice Cream and Miller’s Cream ‘n Dough, those two words refer to the sound that a 1946 John Deere engine with 1.5 horsepower makes when it is churning and producing batch ice cream – which served as the inspiration behind his business.

Miller started Putt Putt Ice Cream four years ago as a mobile shop – setting up at a variety of area events, such as employee appreciation day at ThedaCare Medical Center of Shawano, Bonduel Founder’s Day and the Shawano Annual Fly-In and Car Show.

Earlier this year, Miller took the business one step further with the opening of Miller’s Cream ‘n Dough – a new brick-and-mortar shop located at 1063 E. Green Bay St. in Shawano.

When the building – which housed a former ice cream shop before it relocated to Appleton – came up for sale, Miller said it was a perfect fit as it came with all the equipment.

Though he had the pop-up shop for several years, Miller said the first weeks as the operator of a brick-and-mortar location came with a bit of a learning curve.

The success the shop has seen since, Miller said, is thanks to the support of the community.

“Customers have enjoyed the shop so far,” he said. “(Customers) get their burgers elsewhere and come to us for custard… People want to support the local business owner.”

Standing out
Miller said part of what sparked the idea of starting Putt Putt Ice Cream and opening Miller’s Cream ‘n Dough, was that “there simply weren’t enough ice cream options here in Wisconsin, given the volume of dairy farms.”

The Utica, Ohio, native said he grew up with Velvet Ice Cream, a brand that offers hundreds of flavors and dates back to 1914.

Jacob Miller said he’s proud to be a part of the Shawano small business community. Submitted Photo

“Our whole family has always been ice cream lovers,” he said.

Now a proud Wisconsinite, Miller said the way he makes ice cream is “a unique set up” – which includes a 1946 John Deere engine, a wagon and an ice cream churn.

“It would have been cheaper to go with an electric motor, but (the set-up I have) is more of a showpiece and people talk about it,” he said.

Miller said the ice cream manufacturing process begins by manually adding the ice cream base along with special ingredients, flavorings and salt.

To produce one batch – which generates about five gallons of ice cream – Miller said the churning process takes about 20-30 minutes.

The name Miller’s Cream ‘n Dough, Miller said, represents the two sides of what the business offers – ice cream and baked goods, which includes homemade waffle cones.

Permanent location ‘made sense’
Miller said opening a brick-and-mortar location in Shawano “made sense” in his long-term vision for the ice cream business.

“We needed a space (in which) to do the work,” he said. “We also wanted a place where people could gather year-round. I want people to come here to meet their friends and sit outside and eat ice cream. It’s an atmosphere where they can chill and relax.”

The permanent location, Miller said, is also about more than just ice cream.

“To me, it is to be a part of a community,” he said. “I want it to be a hub and a hangout spot while enjoying good ice cream. I tell my employees we want to have fun and want to come to work.”

Jacob Miller churns homemade ice cream using a 1946 John Deere engine. Submitted Photo

Miller – who also manages a farm and construction business – said he has a staff of nine part-time employees at the store, in addition to his sister, Ann, who he said plays an integral role in the overall operation.

“My sister is my main manager,” he said. “She does the bookkeeping and makes sure everything runs smoothly. If it wasn’t for her, I’m not sure where we would be.”

Ice cream selections
Miller said the selection of ice cream Miller’s Cream ‘n Dough offers appeals to everyone.

One of its “claims to fame,” he said, is its ice cream nachos.

“The ice cream nacho consists of waffle cone chips, all made here,” he said. “The waffle cone chips are made in a banana split bowl with various toppings. That has clearly been our No. 1 hit.” 

To his knowledge, Miller said, ice cream nachos are unique to Miller’s Cream ‘n Dough and Putt Putt Ice Cream.

“I don’t know of anyone in Wisconsin who features that,” he said. “I was on an ice cream group chat and heard it was a big hit (in other areas of the country), and it turns out that it is.”

The shop also offers shakes, malts, floats, concretes, sundaes and ice cream sandwiches – as well as a variety of toppings, including Andes Mints, gummy worms and Snickers.

Miller said the store also offers a flavor of the week, which he said customers have appreciated.

Some flavor of the week options thus far have included cinnamon apple, chocolate peanut butter explosion and cherry chip. 

“At the store, we have at least 12 flavors,” he said. “We recently added a bigger cooler, so we will have the capacity to make more flavors.”

Miller’s Cream ‘n Dough’s No. 1 seller is its ice cream nachos – which consists of waffle cone chips in a banana split. Submitted Photo

On the “Dough” side of the business, Miller said this fall the store began offering breads, pies, cakes and cookies.

“We make everything on site, with the exception of the sugar-free and dairy-free items,” he said.

Looking ahead
Future plans, Miller said, include an expansion of the bakery and mobile businesses.

“We did a dozen mobile events this past season, which was less than prior years,” he said. “This year, we were limited with the new store opening.”

Next year, Miller said he expects mobile business – which now includes a cotton candy machine – to get back on track.

Fall hours at Miller’s Cream ‘n Dough are 3-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, noon to 8:30 p.m. Saturdays and 4-8:30 p.m. Sundays.

For more on Miller’s Cream ‘n Dough or Putt Putt Ice Cream, check out their Facebook pages.

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