We all scream for ice cream

When their daughter-in-law heard ice cream truck music while swimming last year at a women’s retreat on Smith Lake, a new business began for Richard and Julie Owens on Lake Martin.

“There was a boat selling popsicles at Smith Lake, and when our daughter-in-law told her children, her son, Jackson, told Richard, ‘Grandpa, you have to do this business!’ That was all it took,” Julie Owens said.

The Owens’ had previously purchased a used pontoon boat with a bright yellow top. Alabama fans, they had considered changing the Bimini color to crimson but instead, changed it to a new yellow top. After 10-year-old Jackson said the popsicle float should be named the Yellow Top Ice Cream Shop, the concept began to take shape. The paperwork was started to make the endeavor legal, and the boat launched in March after a few accommodations were made for its novelty cargo, including designing a box to hide the freezer generator.

“Early on, it was rainy and cloudy and cold. The water was so choppy,” Owens said.

Though lake season had not opened and the lake wasn’t even close to full pool, Richard sold 81 popsicles his first day out. In addition to popsicles, the sweet float menu includes other sweets and T-shirts and is available for private parties.

“Maxwell Air Force Base wants us at a party in May, and we have had requests for birthday parties,” Owens said.

To find out where Yellow Top Ice Cream Shop is on the lake, visit the Facebook page. 

All the Fun without the Hassle

Something like a country club for boaters will open this month on Lake Martin, said Freedom Boat Club franchisee Russell Atkins, who will add Alabama’s Treasured Lake to his destination roster this summer.

“Instead of tee times, you’ll make boat reservations,” Atkins explained.

Like country club members, boat club members will pay an initiation fee and monthly dues for the privilege of using any of the local club’s fleet at any time and as often as they want. FBC will retain ownership of the boats and will take care of maintenance, upkeep, insurance, slip rental and other expenses typical of boat ownership.

“Club members will just pack a picnic and whatever else they want on the boat and show up. The boat will be in the water, fueled up and ready for them to enjoy a day on the lake,” Atkins said.

Though not connected with Russell Marine, FBC will work from an office at The Ridge Marina. Boats currently in the Lake Martin fleet include a double-decker Monaco Slide Tritoon, a Sea Ray OBX Bowrider, a Hurricane deck boat and another pontoon boat. All of the boats are fewer than three years old.

There is no limit to the number of times a month that a club member could use a boat in the fleet, and membership entitles a member to use a boat at a participating franchised location up to four times per year.

“If a person is a member at Lake Martin and is going on vacation to, say, Florida, they could make a reservation to use a coastal boat at one of our FBC locations there under the same terms as the Lake Martin membership,” Atkins said. “Market research indicates that most people who own a boat use it on average 12 times per year, but FBC members, on average, reserve a boat 24 to 30 times per year.”

Atkins attributed the increase in use to the hassle-free boating the club offers.

“You don’t have to do any of the work. You bring the boat back to the dock, and you walk away. You don’t have to clean it or put gas in it. We take care of that,” he said. “Once we refill the boat, we charge your membership account for the gas you used.”

The initiation fee varies by location but starts around $5,000, and monthly dues begin at $299.

“That’s less than what it costs to rent a boat for one day in most locations,” Atkins said.

Lake Martin will be Atkins’ first FBC venture on a lake. All of his additional franchises are at coastal locations.

“But at least 20 people at my other locations told me, ‘You have got to go to Lake Martin!’ so we came to look at it. Lake Martin is a beautiful place and a good match for Freedom Boat Club,” he said.

Justin Lantz will be the FBC manager at the Lake Martin office. For membership details, contact Membership Executive Morse Hines at 850-677-0067.

The Social

Friends who all grew up spending time at Lake Martin dreamed of opening a restaurant here, and when they saw the old Anchor Bay restaurant, they realized it was a great location for their vision. Lane and Ashley Minor and Katie and Craig Miller will open The Social at Lake Martin this month for Thursday evening dinner and weekend breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner at the southwest lake location after extensive renovations.

“We really opened it up,” said Katie Miller, a Troy native who grew up coming to the lake. “We busted out walls and windows, so the majority of the seating has lake views. Even the indoor dining has garage doors that will open up.”

The family-friendly restaurant will be one of the few locations on the lake that offers breakfast.

“We’ll be opening at 8 a.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with a breakfast menu and on holiday weeks, we’ll be open all week,” said Lane Minor, who is from Slapout. 

“We’ll have brunch by boat, a country style breakfast with a twist – chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits and a crawfish beignet that we can dress up sweet or savory,” Minor added.

The menu also will include burgers, tacos, salads and other lake area favorites. Patrons will place food orders at a food bar and take numbers to their tables, where their selections will be served.

“And we’ll be dog friendly, so bring the dog on a leash,” Minor said.

Gary Williams will manage the restaurant, while Jarod McComack handles the kitchen.

“Between them, there is more than 50 years of experience,” Miller said.

The cocktail menu will offer mimosa flights of flavor varieties for brunch, along with personalized Bloody Marys. There will be Bushwhackers and daiquiris for adults and non-alcoholic daiquiris and milkshakes for the kids.

The restaurant offers seating for about 160 now, but the owners expect to add a rooftop deck with more seating options soon. The dock has space for 10 to 15 boats, but the owners are working with the marina to provide more boat parking options.

The sound can be controlled by zone, so patrons can enjoy easy conversation with dinner guests or plug into the full sound of a local artist on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Look for the music lineup on The Social at Lake Martin’s Facebook page.

In addition, the destination venue will feature a great big chair for taking selfies and photos, said Minor.

“I lived in Orange Beach for eight years, and it seemed like every location on the water had a very large chair for taking pictures. That’s just a fun thing to do, so we’ll have a large Adirondack chair for photo taking,” he said.

The website was still under construction at Lake’s presstime, but once it is up and running, patrons could place orders and purchase swag through the website.

Tiki-time at Bay Pines

Lakeside Bay Pines Marina will host The Wilson Brothers and Charlie Argo next month to celebrate the opening of a new tiki-styled daiquiri bar and a stage that sits right at the water’s edge. Lakeside owner Donnie McDaniel said the Bay Pines expansion is one phase of a company-wide project that includes a new marine maintenance center and storage facility at Centerport Road and reorganized sales space at the Lakeside Blue Creek location.

The pontoon bar and new deck area at Lakeside Bay Pines will more than double the local hangout’s capacity, said Bay Pines Manager Lori Carlisle.

“The new pontoon bar will seat about 20, and we’ll add about 16 to 20 more at tables,” Carlisle explained. 

The outdoor bar will serve signature bushwhackers, frozen margaritas, orange daiquiris and peach daiquiris, along with beer, wine and mixed drinks, she said. An expanded food menu will be available at the indoor deli.

“There’s nothing else like it on this side of the lake. We’ve been shooting for this for four years. It’s exciting to see it coming together,” Carlisle said. “It will be a safer option close by for those in the northern area on the east side of the lake.”

Patrons will be able to anchor in the bay to see and listen to the live bands and take a shuttle to shore to eat, drink and socialize.

Carlisle said a new cover will be added to the existing dock area at the marina, as well.

Lake Martin Creamery

Cheeks swelled above Dianna Duncan̓s mask Wednesday as she watched her grandchildren enjoying custard from the soon-to-be open Lake Martin Creamery.

Duncan’s grandchildren were some of the first to sample the custard created by the husband-and-wife team of Ellen and Dennis Godfrey.

“It’s amazing,” 9-year-old Tommy Farr said. “It’s our lucky day. I got free ice cream.”

Duncan’s other grandchild Hollieanna Farr, 5, dined on the ice cold treat too.

“I love it,” the 5-year-old said. “I’m going to come in everyday and get a chocolate vanilla swirl.”

The Farr siblings visited their grandmother while on spring break. Frequent trips are fine for Duncan.

“I love it,” Duncan said. “We will be here every time they come to visit.”

It’s those reactions and memories Dennis Godfrey hopes everyone gets to enjoy.

“These guys are the reason why we decided to open this,” Godfrey said. “She can make memories with them. That is what I want.”

Godfrey remembers times as a child with his grandparents.

“My grandfather would take us to Moonland, Mississippi, and we would go fish,” Godfrey said. “For me that was the best time of my life. He would buy us a can of Beanie Weenies at 4:30 in the morning from a 7/11 and we thought it was filet mignon. I love the memories I have of my grandfather doing that; it was great.”

The Godfreys were introduced to Lake Martin years ago and almost didn’t come back after the first morning.

“We came down for a sort of a work thing,” Ellen Godfrey said. “It was the Fourth of July weekend. We are going to be in the boat parade. I’m thinking I’m not liking this parade thing. We go to the marina to sign up for the parade and use the potty and came out with a Sea Doo. It is the most expensive potty break ever. We were hooked that weekend. We never looked back. When we would come we would stay at their place until we got a place of our own.”

Dennis Godfrey said the couple’s idea of an ice cream shop started years ago.

“I was probably only going to work a couple more years anyway,” Godfrey said. “Most likely the ice cream shop would have come then.

Last year during the COVID-19 pandemic Godfrey was working a corporate job. He had been with the same company for 18 years

“During the pandemic, I couldn’t travel; it became frustrating,” Godfrey said. “I got so frustrated trying to run a region from a computer. It just didn’t work for me because I’m a people person. We lived in Birmingham and had a place here at the lake. I spent a lot of time down here because I was working from home. The lake kind of exploded and I watched all this around me. I was like, the way people go to work has changed.”

Plans for the ice cream shop got pushed up as the Godfreys noticed a change around the lake.

“For us if we are going to make a move, maybe now is the right time for us to do this,” Godfrey said. “When this opportunity came, when we found this spot and the opportunity became available, we just had to take a leap of faith. We spent a little time praying about it to see if this really is the right move. I feel like it really is because I think this is something the lake needed.

This was our opportunity so if we were going to do it, let’s do it now.”

The idea was planted in the minds of the Godfreys a few years ago, who rented a place at Stillwaters.

“She went to find ice cream with her grandchildren; she couldn’t find anything,” Godfrey said. “She said, ‘Have you guys thought of that.’ We hadn’t but we started doing our research.”

Godfrey left his corporate job in September.

“That was a little unnerving,” he said. “We sold our house in Helena in three hours. It afforded us to have the type of funds we needed to open this up.”

The Godfreys research took them to Seaside, Florida.

“We saw these cute little ice cream shops,” Godfrey said. “We saw how they were run. Most of them were serving hard ice cream but that wasn’t something I really wanted to do. I think most people like soft serve. Really what I wanted was a custard, more of a high quality product. We would get that from St. Louis at Ted Drewes. I got the same mix he uses.”

The entertainment venue will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays and will feature a variety of entertainment, including regular Summer Sets or karaoke on Fridays and Songwriter Saturdays all summer long. The Wilson Brothers will play June 18, with Charlie Argo on June 19.

“We have a lot of local young talent that we will be spotlighting, too. We’ll have Tina Hosey with Madwind Band several times over the summer and Tyler Meadows and some others. Buddy McDaniel has joined in with his brother, Donnie, and he’s working on the entertainment.”

The Lakeside Bay Pines Marina is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week. The location also includes three apartments that are available for short-term rental. Contact Carlisle at Baypines3455@outlook.com for more information.

The Lakeside Marina Service Center at the intersection of state Route 50 and Centerport Road on the south side of Blue Creek will be up and running this month to offer gas, including non-ethanol and diesel, boat service, supplies and storage, McDaniel said.

“The marinas outgrew the service space in Blue Creek, so we’re moving service to the new Centerport Road location,” McDaniel explained. “We’ll have sales and rentals at the Lakeside Blue Creek Marina.”

The Lakeside Blue Creek sales center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week this summer. Contact information for the Centerport Road facility was not yet available at Lake magazine’s presstime but will be available soon at lakesidemarinallc.com.

Courtside Inn at Stillwaters

With event space downstairs and lodging suites with street level access upstairs, Courtside Inn is a little-known Lake Martin option for weekend golf retreats, family reunions, wedding rehearsals, bachelor parties and other gatherings.

Just down the hill from the Stillwaters Golf clubhouse and Copper’s Grill, the inn suites overlook the driving range and practice putting green at this gated east lake community. The lower level event center walks out to a covered patio, just steps away from warming up for a day on the course. Finish the day putting around the practice green, cocktail in hand, or from the private balcony upstairs.

Built as part of the StillWaters (with a capital ‘W’) resort more than 40 years ago, Courtside Inn was named after the tennis courts that originally occupied the space where the driving range is now, said the inn’s coordinator, Amanda Hoffman.

“It was built by Barbara Mandrell, the country singer,” explained Hoffman. “She built it for her family to come and stay. They were tennis players, and they had tennis tournaments here. They could watch the tennis games from the balconies.”

The inn is owned by Keith Hiett, who purchased the building, along with the golf course and clubhouse, about five years ago and changed the capital ‘W’ to lowercase to differentiate the golf club from the surrounding residential neighborhood.

The Courtside suites were recently updated in golf décor, said Hoffman, who coordinates everything at the inn. Each room includes two queen size beds, a private bathroom and a refrigerator, as well as a spacious deck. With parking just steps away from the suite entrances at street level, arrival and departure couldn’t be easier, and Hoffman manages the downstairs space to be carefree for her guests.

Amenities at the lower level event space can include a fully stocked bar, tables and chairs, catering kitchen and custom décor. Hoffman, her assistant Kim Helmke and the rest of her team can decorate the space for any occasion. Catering services are provided by Copper’s Grill. Floral services and live entertainment are available as well, all arranged through Hoffman, who can offer services ala carte or at convenient package pricing.

“Everything you need is right here, and it’s one of the most economical spaces available around the lake,” said Hoffman, who has coordinated events for 38 years. “It’s really great to have the event space with the rooms upstairs. You can stay as late as you want, and you don’t have to drive anywhere. You can just walk upstairs to retire at the end of the day.”

Hoffman will kick off the summer season at Courtside Inn with an open house from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on May 27 with Americana decorations, hors d’oeurves, adult beverages and live music. The public is invited to tour the inn at the open house event.

Courtside Inn is located at 40 Courtside Circle, inside the gates at StillWaters. Turn into the first driveway on the right after the clubhouse. For more information, contact Hoffman at 334-444-2165.