LIBERTY HILL, Texas (KXAN) — Liberty Hill resident Tyler Candido is what most would call an ice cream connoisseur. For many kids, the prospect of working in an ice cream shop would be a dream come true.
For Tyler, that dream just became a reality.
Tyler’s parents, James and Lisa Candido, hosted a soft opening of their ice cream shop Udder Love Saturday at Liberty Hill’s Main Street Social food hall, passing out samples to guests. Udder Love will celebrate its official opening next weekend, with Tyler serving plenty of scoops to go around.
The business is more than just an ice cream lover’s fantasy come to life. It’s also an opportunity to build a more inclusive work environment for people of all intellectual and physical capabilities.
“The fact that he was loving scooping the ice cream and giving it out to people — I mean, that’s one of his strengths, is he just loves to be around people and he is so incredibly helpful,” Lisa said. “We want, both in his school and in our community, for people to recognize people with Down syndrome as contributing members of society.”
Tyler was born in 2010 with Down syndrome, and Lisa and James said they immediately began dreaming of what his future would look like, envisioning ways they could support and nurture him. While post-secondary education and employment opportunities have increased for people with Down syndrome in recent years, they said people with Down syndrome are still often left with a more limited variety of options compared tp others.
Udder Love is a place that marries Tyler’s passion for ice cream — with special emphasis on mint chocolate chip — with his love of meeting new people, James and Lisa said. On Saturday, the Candidos served more than 700 samples of ice cream, with people driving in from other parts of the metro to sample their sweet treats.
The Candidos credited Main Street Social’s owners, James and Tambra Prince, for collaborating with local businesses and assisting in bringing these passion projects to life. It takes a village to launch a business, James and Lisa said; and that same village came out in droves to show their love and support.
“If we can have people realize that people that have Down syndrome are just like their 10 year-old son that loves to play and do all those things, then I think that will only help our world as we move along,” Lisa said. “Inclusion is a huge thing we advocate for, and I think that his peers should see that he’s just as capable as they are.”
For James and Lisa, this process of launching a new business has been a relatively fast turnaround. They were approached by friends in June about the prospect of buying this ice cream shop. Two months later, they’re opening their doors to the greater Liberty Hill community.
When the business “fell into their lap,” as James put it, the name, logo and colors were already in place, with those colors the same as the ones that represent Down syndrome. He said it was a sign that this business was meant to be.
“God had his hand in this creation,” he said.
When Tyler was born, James said he and Lisa had countless questions on what Down syndrome was and what that could mean for Tyler’s future. Lisa said it was a different journey than either of them expected — a difference that opened them up to a world of beauty, richness, greater understanding and empathy for people of all walks of life.
It was during this time period, shortly after Tyler was born, that James received a call from a good friend whose daughter also had Down syndrome.
“He says, ‘James, you’re never going to imagine this, but Tyler is going to fill your life with so much joy and love that you, I can’t even express how lucky you are and how amazing of a journey you’re going to have,'” James recalled.
At the time, James said he couldn’t see it. But people with Down syndrome go to college, get married and win Olympic medals, he said. They have a world of potential and are more alike to others than they are different.
When he sees Tyler’s smile as he serves up customers, or as he flexes his biceps in front of Udder Love’s logo? Well, that’s just the cherry on top.
“Now I completely see it. He has been an absolute light and a delight, and he can do so many things, but he’s more similar to everybody else than he has different,” James said. “And the reality is he’s got this big heart and we hope that people continue to see it.”