Q & A: David Acklin
Memphis has a few places where you can buy sweet scoops of syrupy ice to savor on a steamy summer day. But none has been around as long as Jerry's Sno Cones in the Berclair area. Located in a former service station, the building was turned into a car wash by owner L.B. Clifton. In the 1970s, he and his wife set up a sno cone stand here too, and Jerry's has been serving up the cold, crunchy stuff — along with creamy confections and hot food — ever since.
About five years ago, when the owners were ready to sell, David Acklin was ready to buy. We caught him before the lunch crowd showed up to find out what's cool, what's hot, and what he loves about Jerry's Sno Cones. >>>
What's the appeal of a place like this?
When I was little, my dad would take us to the Freezeway on Millbranch. It was a lot like Jerry's. There was something about the excitement of people walking up with smiles on their faces, happy to be there. It made me think, 'I'd like to own a place this.'
First visit to Jerry's?
When I was maybe 16. It was awesome. I met the Cliftons and they became like my grandparents. [As I grew older] I just needed some time away from the printing business. I'd come in and work with them at night. It was kinda cool.
Cool enough to buy it.
Yeah. From what I understand the [Cliftons'] kids didn't want the place. And I didn't want to see it closed down because I recognized something here: Children, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, generations coming together and having a good time. I liked the Christian part of it too.
In what way?
We're not open on Sunday and never will be. And putting Bibles in the window. That's something the Cliftons did every night, and I do too. I've driven back up here from Bartlett to put the Bibles in the window.
Does the car wash still work?
It does, but we turned the lane into a drive-thru for the wintertime. Eventually we'll make it into a patio area.
The restaurant was named after the Cliftons' adopted son. Have you ever seen the namesake Jerry?
Maybe once. I guess he and the others had their fill of sno cones. Not me. I still love 'em.
Biggest sno cone seller?
Wedding cake. Most would make it a clear color. But we wanted to do something different. So we made it red. And there is a little something in it besides just red coloring. Won't say what. We mix everything here.
You've added some food items.
Yeah, and we're changing the name to Jerry's Sno Cone and Burger Shack. We asked a thousand of our customers to choose between 'joint' and 'shack.' They chose shack. Our burgers are the same as Huey's, but we created our own seasoned salt. That took two and a half years. We're gonna start selling the seasoning.
Who's this? (Young woman enters the shop.)
My daughter Lauren. She's 20. Both my children are involved. Whenever Lauren lets me take off, she actually runs the place. She's done everything. Without her, it'd be really, really hard.
She must like it.
Lauren, do you like it? (Lauren responds affirmatively.)
Good answer. And you love it, right?
Yeah. There's just something about these walk-up places. The happiness.
Ever think of relocating?
As of now, no. If it ever gets bad over here, maybe. Haven't had any problems. Except a kid broke in and stole a box of Oreos. That was two years ago.
This past year was really good. I think instead of people going on vacations, they're having small outings, grabbing hold of their families more. Business is growing, as people tell others about us. We get folks from all around the area. Individuals and church groups. People who live nearby and those who used to. And once they come to Jerry's, they usually come back. M