What American child doesn’t grow up hearing of the great “American Dream”? In my youth (okay, well into my 30’s), I believed the American Dream involved some combination of tree-lined streets, white picket fences, neighborhood 4th of July parades, and red gingham picnic blankets with homemade potato salad, sandwiches and plenty of family and friends. It wasn’t until Christian and I embarked on a grand new adventure called Nye’s Cream Sandwiches that my understanding of the American Dream evolved into something more than charming scenes found in pictures and paintings hanging on the walls of so many American homes.
Three years ago, Christian and I were giddy with excitement at the prospect of creating our own version of the American Dream. What could possibly be more American than starting an ice cream sandwich business? Not those mass-produced sandwiches for sale at every supermarket and gas station, but honest-to-goodness hand-crafted sandwiches that evoke memories of days gone by – without all the preservatives and ingredients you can’t pronounce. Determined to make our dream a reality, Christian baked cookies two trays at a time in our kitchen, perfected ice cream recipes with a soft-serve machine rented from Jeter’s Hot Dogs, and molded ice cream in PVC pipe cut at our local Steven’s Hardware Store. Along with our sons, Nicholas (then 8) and Charlie (then 6), we had a wonderful summer dreaming up cookie and ice cream combinations, most of which are still in production. That magical summer came and went, and the reality of owning a small business set in.
I’m not going to lie. Starting a business from scratch on a shoestring budget with no experience is not exactly the American Dream of my childhood. Christian and I have depleted our savings, shed a bucket full of tears (well, that was mostly me), endured many sleepless nights and exchanged security for what we still believe is an opportunity for something better. At the same time, we have experienced significant growth, connected with some incredible people, created a few jobs, and (hopefully) taught our sons that nothing worth having comes without persistence and hard work. And every now and then, we get a glimpse of the wonderful places our little business can take us … who would dream that our family would attend Hillary Clinton’s Fourth of July party in Washington D.C. last year, all because of a little ice cream sandwich business?
Now that I think about it, isn’t our experience exactly what lies at the core of the American Dream? As colonists, our Founding Fathers must have been giddy with excitement at the idea of the United States of America. But as we all know, the vision of our Founding Fathers did not become a reality without the blood, sweat and tears of many men and women who refused to give up when things looked bleak. I am thankful that our forefathers risked everything for a shot at something far better – a country that (despite its faults) remains the greatest in the world more than 200 years later. Somehow, I doubt the lives of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were filled with white picket fences, parades and red gingham tablecloths. Three years into our Nye’s Cream Sandwiches adventure, I sometimes wonder how I ever believed that my “American Dream” should or could be realized without the courage, faith and tenacity exhibited by our Founding Fathers.
As it turns out, I might never live the “American Dream” of my childhood. But I have discovered something just as important as that elusive American Dream – the American Spirit that makes it all possible. And for now, that is enough…
Have a Nye’s Day –