During high school and some of college, Lainey Sage, 21, earned money working at the former Lumpy’s Ice Cream, 15800 Snow Road in Brook Park. She even got her younger sister, Gracyn, a job at Lumpy’s.
Then one day last year, Sage learned that the owners were selling the shop. “The previous owners had opened a second location and wanted to sell the first,” Sage recalls.
A light bulb went on in Sage’s head. She wanted to buy the shop.
“I guess I was bold enough to think I knew a lot about the ice cream industry,” she says. So, she proposed the notion to her mother, Michelle.
“Well, would it be that crazy,” she remembers asking her mother. “I felt like I had a good grasp of what I was doing, and my parents had experience running their insurance company, Machor Sage Insurance Agency.”
Shortly after Sage’s proposal, the ice cream shop concept became a family affair. Michelle and her husband, Dan, bought the business last July—and the makings of Busy Bee Ice Cream Co. began to take shape.
Last Saturday, May 16, the Sage family—Lainey; Gracyn, 18; Owen, who turns 16 on June 1; and parents Michelle and Dan—held their grand opening to enthusiastic friends, family, and supporters.
“We’re all co-owners of the ice cream shop, which is a pretty cool thing to say,” says Lainey Sage, who is also currently in the middle of earning a degree in mechanical engineering and minoring in robotics at University of Cincinnati. “We each own 20%.”
Sage’s engineering studies came in handy as the family gutted and remodeled the 700-square-foot building. Sage, who because of the coronavirus was sent home in March from the job she was working as part of her college curriculum, began overseeing the renovation efforts.
“I dove head-first into the design,” she recalls. “My parents were running their insurance agency, and my brother and sister were still in class. I decided we’re going to focus on this and only this. Once it began to come together, everyone was in it full-force.”
Sage says the largest part of the remodeling was creating a wall to separate the customer area from the storage area in the rear of the building. “Then, it was making sure we set up space that worked logistically—what would be the most efficient with order, pay, and pickup [counters],” she says.
They hired Mike Caparanis and his team at JAC Creative to build a brand and logo for the ice cream company. Sage says they chose the name Busy Bee Ice Cream Co. because the entire family is always, well, busy with work, school, civic, and social interests.
“The name is very fitting,” she says. “Everyone in our family is very busy. The fact that we had this thing [in which] everyone had to come together—wanted to come together—is something to be really proud of.”
Frank Metro of Printing Connection printed the marketing materials, while Louis Alafifi of AlphaGraphics oversaw the menu printing.
Bill Savel with Brooklyn Cabinets executed the construction of the remodeling work.
Sage says she wanted Busy Bee’s image to be whimsical, yet also emphasize the need to support family-owned small businesses.
The group worked with Lici Hoover of Lici Hoover Interior Design to design the pink and blue walls and carry out an inviting atmosphere.
“It was a lot of collaboration,” says Sage of all the local companies Busy Bee worked with to get the shop ready. She says the collaboration made her dream and reality.
“It’s a love child between Starbucks and a local, family-owned establishment,” Sage says. “I like how it looks in there, and I love how it turned out, but I hope people still get that family feel.”
Busy Bee’s ice cream is made by North Royalton’s Country Parlour, which produces flavors like Superman, Chubby Elvis (banana, peanut butter, and chocolate), and Lake Erie Salt Mine (salted caramel, fudge, and cashews).
Then, the Sage family creates local signature sundaes like the Dawg Pound (brownies and Peanut Butter Overdose Rx ice cream topped with hot fudge and Reese’s Pieces) or the Sour Puss (lemon chill-zing ice cream topped with marshmallow and lemon cotton candy).
Sage says the customer favorite is the Turtle Sundae (vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge, hot caramel, and toasted pecans).
Additionally, the Sages are working with local producers for some concoctions. The Cleveland Caramel Corn Company is providing the caramel for sundaes, while Strongsville beekeeper Neal Klabunde of Dirty Fingernails Nursery & Apiary is providing local honey.
While Sage and her siblings handle the daily operating tasks at Busy Bee, Michelle helps in the shop when she can and responds to feedback and Dan takes care of inventory.
Sage says business has been brisk in their first week, and they expect a strong turnout over the holiday weekend. Regardless, she is encouraged by the support the family has received.
“We’ve had plenty of friends and family come, but I get very giddy and excited when someone I don’t know comes in,” she admits. “To see people who you didn’t explicitly tell about [the shop], it’s one of those real-life moments.”