When one hears the name "Cathy Brown Brown", two words are likely to come to mind: ice cream and selflessness. Seem odd? Well, if you know Cathy, it makes perfect sense. Owner of local favorite Valpo Velvet and a Valparaiso native, Cathy epitomizes true selflessness and care as both a business owner and member of our community, and certainly is a life that deserves to be spotlighted according to all sorts of people both in our community and outside of it.
As fabulous of a shop owner as Cathy is, many may be surprised to know that she did not, in fact, know that her calling was to be the world of ice cream making. She attended Indiana University to study Elementary Education, and substitute taught for several years after graduating. After marrying her husband, Mike Brown, whose family opened Valpo Velvet in 1947, she began working with him in parts of the shop. Mike and Cathy went on to have their three children, Katie, Greer, and Luke, and after taking time off of teaching to raise the kids and work partially in the shop, she decided that working full-time in Valpo Velvet was what she wanted to be doing.
"It's tough to make ice cream, people don't realize the physical labor that goes into making it! As I got more immersed in Valpo Velvet and the ice cream and the customers, who I love since they're aged 0 to 102, I found every day it was changing and I love going to work where, even though it's hard work, you're doing something different every day," Cathy said.
Cathy's clear passion for what she does is not hard to notice if you've ever had the pleasure of encountering her in the shop, at the trailer at a downtown event, or even just out and about in town. She can always be found with a huge smile on her face and a witty, funny remark to be made. It is this attitude that makes people come back year after year, start of the season to close. Customers are lucky enough to be able to find their favorite Valpo Velvet flavors in various grocery stores around town as well, so they never have to feel the withdrawl through the winter months! This availability of product certainly would not be possible without the confidence of Cathy and Mike in what they're producing.
"My favorite part of the job is the product. I'm really proud of the product, I'm proud to talk about it, I'm proud to sell it. There's not one part of me that's hesitant, and I truly believe we make something great," she said.
Cathy not only holds pride in her product, but in her involvement with the youth she comes into contact with as well.
"Interacting with not only kids as customers, but teenagers as employees is awesome. What I found quickly is that I'm still teaching! I'm teaching these kids how to have a 'first job', how to be with customers, how to make a product, how to serve a product, how to talk about a product, and how to act in public when you're selling a product. It's been so much fun teaching the kids I love in our community...that has to be my most favorite part," Cathy said.
It is in this respect that Cathy gives to employees and customers alike that makes her such an outstanding, inspiring woman within our business community here and our city in general. Her hard work, passion, and all around wonderful nature make her a role model to young people, as well as someone who is able to simply be a friend. It is people like Cathy Brown who make our community the positive place it is, and I can't imagine Valpo without the impact of Cathy and the rest of the Brown family.
Cathy's.dream job? Being a DJ on WXRT! If she were an article of clothing, what would she be?
"A hat, it keeps people warm and content while also hiding bad hair and showing personality," Cathy said.