When Norma and Bill Abel opened Abel’s Ice Cream 10 years ago, they never dreamed that their little shop would become a Siesta Key and Sarasota institution.
“When after four-and-a-half years, we decided to sell and we met Jerry and Jill Williams,” recalled Norma Abel. “We knew they were the perfect people to take it over. This 10th anniversary celebration is a dream come true.”
At home in its original Stickney Point Road location, Abel’s has as held the No. 1 ranking by TripAdvisor for ice cream shops in Sarasota for seven consecutive years. The little sweet shop that serves up more than 40 flavors of Florida-made ice cream, sherbet and yogurt to customers from all over the world was inducted into the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame in 2018.
Last year, Abel’s was awarded TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence.
“Pretty cool for a little ice cream store,” said Jerry Williams, who along with his wife, Jill, has overseen the growth and success of the popular spot.
“A 10-year anniversary is a big deal for any small business,” said Williams, who serves on the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors. “To celebrate, Abel’s will have a special evening celebration on Sunday, April 11, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. We’ll have a tent, balloons, and music from Sarasota violinist Matt Dendy.”
Customers will be able to participate in a special raffle and Abel’s will offer complimentary coffee samples of Tropical Shores Gourmet Popcorn and LeLu Coffee. Both Siesta Key brands are sold in the store.
Looking back on the past 10 years, Williams said that Abel’s “is a place where people come together.” Like many other small Siesta Key-area businesses, Abel’s saw a dip in business during the worst days of the pandemic. But now, Williams is optimistic about the future.
The shop’s low-key welcoming vibe features walls decorated with local photographer Wendy Cohen’s framed color photographs of Siesta Key’s iconic lifeguard chairs and wildlife. Happy tunes also fill the air.
While ice cream is the star of the show, many loyal chocolate lovers also drop in to scoop up a few pieces of handmade gourmet chocolate truffles or rich fudge, made by Sweet Shop USA and imported all the way from suburban Dallas.
Over the years, Williams has conducted his own non-scientific survey of his customers’ favorite ice cream flavors.
“Stellar Coffee is our biggest seller and No. 1 customer favorite. Captain’s Chocolate comes in at No. 2, and Elephant Ears — vanilla ice cream with peanut butter and chocolate chips — rounds out the list at No. 3.”
Meanwhile, he said that kids can’t resist Abel’s Superman or Birthday Cake ice cream.
“And this month, in honor of our founder Norma Abel, we’ll be featuring her favorite flavor, Raspberry Truffle,” he proclaimed.
In addition to the many awards that grace Abel’s walls, Williams is also extremely proud of his part-time staff of high school and college students. “Some have been with us for close to five years,” he said, calling them “just fantastic.”
He credits his young workers with making Abel’s the place to where so many people love to come. Williams, who spent his own career in the hospitality and food industry, believes that working with the public in a service business “offers a great start for a young person.”