When his newborn son Charlie was in the NICU at Primary Children’s Hospital, Dan Mueller passed the time by researching online how to make homemade, old-fashioned ice cream.
Charlie was in the NICU for 70 days, so there was lots of time spent waiting.
“That was how I coped with everything,” Mueller said.
On July 31, 2018, Mueller’s wife Whitney, who was pregnant with Charlie at the time, started feeling some unusual pain. As it increased over the course of the day, she decided she needed to visit her doctor. The doctor’s office worked her in toward the end of the same day.
When doing an ultrasound, doctors were unable to find a heartbeat. Whitney called Dan to tell him she was being rushed into emergency surgery.
Charlie was not alive when he was born, Mueller said, but doctors were able to revive him. They discovered there was a knot in the umbilical cord, so Charlie had stopped getting oxygen.
Because of the lack of oxygen, Charlie’s bowels were damaged, which can lead to a severe infection. He was life-flighted from McKay-Dee Hospital to Primary Children’s for surgery.
For the first two days after the surgery, Charlie’s vitals were fine, but he wasn’t responsive. Brain scans showed that he had some brain damage in areas that might affect him physically, but other parts of his brain were intact.
Then he started twitching and moving. The next morning he opened his eyes.
As days went by, he became more and more responsive, Mueller said. After 70 days in the NICU, he was doing well.
Doctors told the Muellers that it was difficult to tell what would happen. Charlie might not respond to smiling and laughing, they said, but he’d probably make eye contact.
“And then he started kind of cooing, and now he smiles and he’s this happy little baby,” Mueller said.
Despite being about 6 weeks premature, “he’s got big old rolls on his arms and legs, and it’s funny to think he was this tiny little premie baby,” Mueller said.
Charlie is 10 months old now. He’s been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and with a type of infant brain injury.
It’s hard to predict how Charlie’s development will unfold, but right now he’s “doing way beyond what we ever thought,” Mueller said.
Had the Muellers not gone through this experience with Charlie, they never would have opened an ice cream shop, Mueller said.
After taking his kids to Farr’s in Ogden a couple years ago (the Muellers had four before Charlie), Mueller noticed that there weren’t many places to get ice cream in North Ogden — and he’d been thinking about it ever since.
After Charlie’s stay in the NICU, the Muellers decided opening the shop might be a good way to defray the cost of medical bills, though Mueller doesn’t plan to give up his job as a local high school seminary teacher.
A series of fortunate events helped them to move forward with the plan. When the cannery space in North Ogden became available to rent in January 2019, it sealed the deal.
“And then we stumbled on literally having the best ice cream,” Mueller said.
When he was searching homemade ice cream online, he ran across Paul Dagostin, who runs the Milkhouse Creamery in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Mueller reached out to Dagostin, and Dagostin has helped him through every step of the process of setting up the shop.
Dagostin shared all of his ice cream secrets with Mueller, even inviting him out to Pennsylvania to show him how to make it — and sharing his recipe book.
One of the tricks is a very high proportion of butterfat. Most premium ice creams are 14% butterfat, Mueller said. Ice cream at the Cannery Creamery is 16% — and it has egg yolks, the key to making it so creamy.
Mueller was able to work with Rosehill Dairy in Morgan and Cache Valley to create an ice cream mix that meets these standards.
“The community has just rallied around us,” Mueller said.
After hearing Charlie’s story, community members came in to support the family, but they keep coming back for the ice cream — which comes in flavors as varied as mango pepper (Mueller’s creation) and circus animal (the idea of Mueller’s 8-year-old son).
“We’ve been profitable since day one,” Mueller said. “At first, everybody thought we were stupid, but our guts — we just felt good about it.”
Since the creamery opened on May 10, it has served about 2,500 gallons of ice cream, which translates to about 50,000 scoops.