After reviving Betty Rae's Ice Cream, owner Alec Rodgers is selling the company
A former Betty Rae's scooper himself, Alec Rodgers bought and reopened the ice cream shops in 2021 following misconduct allegations against the original owners. Now he's selling the business to Matt Shatto of Shatto Milk Company, who has ambitions to expand to new locations across Kansas City.
An announcement this week that Betty Rae’s Ice Cream could open new shops and push its popular products into grocery stores is exciting growth to envision, agreed Alec Rodgers, the brand’s steward since 2021 when he bought and reopened its two storefronts amid challenges of the ongoing pandemic.
Rodgers just won’t be the man behind the counter taking the business to that next level, the employee-turned-owner at Betty Rae’s said.
“Any responsible leader knows when they have served their time well and also can acknowledge and tell themselves when it’s time to sit back and allow someone else to take it forward,” he said.
At the age of 23, Rodgers bought Betty Rae’s Ice Cream — providing stabilization to the Waldo and River Market shops during the pandemic and leading the business to its busiest years ever.
Now, he’s passed the scoop, selling the business to a person he believes is the best fit for the job: Matt Shatto, vice president of local dairy Shatto Milk Company and founder of Shatto Home Delivery.
“From an owner’s perspective — but also the inner scooper I once was — I’m so excited for Betty Rae’s,” Rodgers said.
Shatto plans to keep all current employees and both locations open, continue popular flavors and the ice cream truck, and will focus on expanding the brand, including into the retail market, according to statements released to the media this week.
The sale was reportedly finalized earlier this month.
Rodgers bought Betty Rae’s from its original owners — David Friesen and Mary Nguyen — in early 2021 after they closed the popular shops in 2020.
“I’ve learned so much in the last two and a half years,” Rodgers explained. “When I bought the shops, the possibilities were limitless in my mind. But as time went on, I really learned a lot about myself and my skills, my abilities, and my desires. Expansion, it’s not my skill, especially with ice cream.
“When you have 60 people on the team, it’s a big risk to take on their behalf, if you don’t really know what you are doing. If you fail, it’s not just you failing. It’s your entire team whose livelihoods are on the line and I love my team way too much to put them up for a risk like that.”
Rodgers noted that he has been thinking about selling the business for months and did his due diligence to explore the best options for Betty Rae’s — and his fellow team members, who he has allowed to take the wheel for the last six months — and Matt Shatto came to mind someone with whom he should connect.
“The more I got to know Matt, the more I was confident it was the right decision,” he said. “He is really a great communicator and has an awesome vision for not just Betty Rae’s, but things in general. The way his mind works is pretty impressive.”
“Obviously he has done so well with Home Delivery,” he continued. “His role at Shatto Milk Company and his career before either of those companies has been substantial. And again, his employees stay for a long time. They do things right. I love the message that they convey through their companies. From that perspective, again, of an employee, I would work for a company like this and fresh in my mind and being in that place. I just think this is the right decision for the team and for Betty Rae’s at this time.”
Shatto’s expansion plans and commitment to the existing brand keep Rodgers hopeful about Betty Rae’s future, he said.
“I’m excited for the team. I’m excited for Matt. I’m excited for Betty Rae’s to continue in Kansas City — and maybe beyond,” Rodgers added. “Who knows what he might do.”
Rodgers — a UMKC graduate, who was involved in an award-winning Enactus team — also acknowledged he isn’t sure what’s next for him, although he did mention possibly going back to scooping. Through his time of leading Betty Rae’s two ice cream shops, he’s learned that he loves small businesses, leading people, mentoring younger people, and finding efficiencies in processes.
“I’d love to open or buy another small business that’s more in my comfort zone,” he said. “So who knows what might come up.”
This story was originally published on Startland News, a fellow member of the KC Media Collective.