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In November 2019, I happened to flip on the TV just as the founders of The Yard Milkshake Bar in Gulf Shores, Alabama, made a pitch on Shark Tank. Ultimately, investor Mark Cuban offered $400,000 towards future franchises in exchange for 22 percent of the profits from the new locations. Today, this sweet business offers customers 34 different ice cream flavors plus 60 different toppings. There are even vegan, lactose- and gluten-free ingredients plus eight versions of edible cookie dough.
Photo Credit: The Yard Milkshake Bar
I was immediately hooked to watch since less than a year before I’d visited the bright, spacious flagship location in Gulf Shores. Indeed, these milkshakes are like no other! The totally decadent seemingly gravity-defying shakes rise at least six inches above generous-sized, souvenir-branded glass Mason jars.
The company has grown to include a dozen additional stores that have already opened or are in the works. You can also experience The Yard Milkshake Bar at home: Mail order a milkshake kit via Goldbelly. Each $129 kit makes four shakes (each of which serves two people, but my bet is that you might indulge a few more mouths than that). Five different kits are available, including the “Signature Milkshake Combo Kit” that provides ingredients for two customer favorites: “Birthday Cake” and “Cookie Dough Delicious.”
This cool and creamy enterprise began in 2011, when Chelsea and her mother Charlene Hoffman opened their Island Ice Cream & Treats shop in Gulf Shores. Six years later, Chelsea and her husband Logan opened The Yard Milkshake Bar where outrageous specialty milkshakes took center stage.
The shop quickly drew residents and visitors who enthusiastically embraced the concept. The company’s initial success set the stage for development of new franchise locations—which grew exponentially after Chelsea and Logan’s Shark Tank visit.
“Our vision for The Yard began as a small concept, but it quickly expanded by demand,” says Chelsea. “It is exciting to be expanding into new locations across the United States, and although we are growing at a fast pace, each franchise is owned and operated by a local franchisee.”
“We believe that maintaining the small business mom-and-pop feel is essential for our brand,” she says, “and for our customers to obtain the full experience of The Yard Milkshake Bar, since that is how it was first envisioned in my mind.”
Specials are featured each month. At select locations February combos included Love is Like a Box of Chocolates that stuffed a vanilla-iced jar with “Peppermint Moosetracks” ice cream and Valentine sprinkles, red-striped whipped cream, colorful marshmallow cream drizzles, and small Twix, Snickers, and Almond Joy bars.
The Yardi Gras, another February special, incorporated “Graham Central Station” ice cream, colorful marshmallow cream drizzle, green marshmallow cream, Mardi Gras sprinkles, and even a slice of King Cake. Regular favorites include “Strawberries & Cream Cheesecake,” “Praline Pecan Waffle,” and “Birthday Cake.”
Photo Credit: The Yard Milkshake Bar
The Yard Milkshake Bar has also become known for its ice cream cakes. “Peanut Butter Brownie Bliss” and “Unicorn Ice Cream Cake,” among others, layer cake and ice cream with plenty of icing and loads of edible decorations.
You can indulge your creativity, too, by developing a milkshake combo. For instance, you might combine scoops of butter pecan and “Heavenly Hazelnut” ice creams topped with caramel, crushed cone, marshmallow cream drizzle, whipped cream, and pecans. Think you’ve designed a winner? Share your shake combo on the company website; Chelsea and Logan will let you know if they decide it belongs on the menu.
Not into gargantuan shakes? Order a hand-dipped cone, bowl of ice cream, float, or coffee. You can also request scoops of edible cookie dough like double chocolate, M&M sugar cookie, “Peanut Butter Monster” and five additional flavors.
Stay at the eco-friendly The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel for a low-key yet luxury stay with gorgeous Gulf views. Inside the 6,150-acre Gulf State Park, the hotel also offers an outdoor pool and in-house dining.
Rent a three- or four-bedroom condo at Turquoise Place, A Spectrum Resort in a tall tower beside Gulf of Mexico waters in
Orange Beach. These spacious, luxurious accommodations feature full kitchens and large balconies with grills.
For fun make your own blown glass souvenir with the help of glass experts inside the Hot Shop at The Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach. From paperweights to holiday ornaments, you’ll find plenty of projects.
Close views of tiny squid, pastel jellyfish, and even dolphins are part of nature tours with Sailaway Charters, boarding in Orange Beach. You can also go shrimping and crabbing, take a guided beach walk, or rent a sailboat.
Savor seafood in the open air, at LuLu’s Gulf Shores restaurant. Jimmy Buffett’s sister, Lucy, has operated this bright, cheerful eatery since 1998. There’s a fun retail shop, plus live music and special events, too.
Additional locations of The Yard Milkshake Bar include:
Alabama: Fairhope & Madison – COMING SOON
Arizona: Phoenix – COMING SOON
Florida: Panama City Beach & Destin – COMING SOON
Mississippi: D’Iberville, Flowood & Hattiesburg
Texas: Austin & Georgetown
Virginia: Virginia Beach
Lisa Waterman Gray
Previously a restaurant cook and a professional baker, as well as a catering and a cooking school assistant, Lisa Waterman Gray has written food-focused stories for dozens of publications for local, national, and international audiences. Based on the Kansas side of the Kansas City area, she loves getting a ‘taste’ of every destination and telling the stories behind those flavors. Learn more at www.lisawatermangray.com.