When Country Style Ice Cream was set in place at Chester’s Village Green development, there was only one permanent structure that had been completed on what would become the center of the village of Chester. Restaurants, gift shops, offices and apartments now occupy the site.
Mike and Barb Leatherwood are the original owners of the frozen-confection shop that opened in 1999. Mike said there wasn’t even a proper road in front of the shop when they set their modular building on its foundation behind what was then the F&M Bank and now Argent Credit Union.
“We were the first business in the Village Green,” Mike said. We were even here before the street was paved.” The Leatherwoods say that it’s been wonderful seeing the Village grow over the years and hope the new owners will continue the partnership they felt with the community.
According to Mike and Barb, their intention has always been to sell the shop after their youngest daughter, Joy, had finished high school. She is now senior at L.C. Bird.
While the couple started the business with another couple, they quickly bought out their partners and undertook what Mike describes as a full-time job for Barb. She managed the employees and opened and closed the shop each day.
“Our family is now heading in a new business direction which will require all our attention.” Mike said. “We will work hard to bring the kind of management that will serve folks with the care they deserve.”
The Leatherwoods have a number of options available for any potential buyer including special financing.
The Leatherwoods are known by many in the community and have employed many of its young people over the years. In fact, Mike says the ice cream shop, which they franchised from a shop they found in Illinois, has employed over 125 persons over their 12 years in business. Some employees have worked at the shop, which sold ice cream and frozen yogurt and other items over the years, for three years. Many of those young employees found their first job at Country Style.
“Country Style Ice Cream was an ideal environment for my first job,” said Ally Higgins, who worked for the Leatherwoods for over three years. “Mike and Barb Leatherwood were understanding of my imperfections as an inexperienced worker; thanks to their unrelenting patience, I learned many valuable job skills that I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to acquire elsewhere.”
Higgins says she can only hope to have another chance to work for someone as genuine and kind as Mike and Barb. Higgins now attends James Madison University.
Mike said, becoming emotional, that he and Barb are thankful for all their loyal customers and supporters that made the store such a success.
The Leatherwoods have been involved in the community by supporting a number of local events including Chesterfest and Grillin’ on the Green.
“It has been a blessing to share dessert with you all these years,” Mike said.