Little Man Goes Big

The local ice cream company opens a new shop in Fort Collins, and we hear about its origins from the big man himself, Paul Tamburello

Salted Oreo, Mexican Chocolate and Pumpkin Chai, oh my! With ice cream flavors galore and unique architecture to boot, the Little Man Ice Cream Company's shops are born-in-Colorado phenomena, thanks to the founder Paul Tamburello.

The nostalgic ice cream parlors celebrate the art of handmade ice cream and other sweet treats, community and friendly atmosphere. Little Man, the original location in LoHi bearing his father's nickname, serves up goodies out of an old-time milk jug-shaped shop.

Sweet Cooie's, named after Tamburello's pioneering and sweet mother, is a classically-inspired confectionary serving up the signature Little Man handmade ice cream and chocolates.

And Fort Collins just welcomed Old Town Churn Ice Cream, the newest Little Man concept. The 26-foot-tall ice cream churn is made of Fir wood and includes a 2,000-pound forged steel hand crank. 

Tamburello is a real estate developer and was working on an adaptive reuse of the old Olinger Morturary building in LoHi when he and his then-business partner were puzzled about what to do with a random bit of land between their two buildings.

"Well, ice cream has always been a sort of hobby of mine, and my family's," he notes. "And I thought, 'We don't have an ice cream store in The Highlands, so this could be really fun.' We decided to take this extra space to build a plaza and an ice cream store," says Tamburello.

 "We were inspired by a lot of older, 1920s 1930s road-side destination architecture in California and Florida," he says, mentioning giant donut-shaped drive-through stores and more.   

Tamburello's vision for the Little Man Ice Cream concepts is simple: "What we want to do with Little Man is unique. It started that way, and we want it to continue that way," he says.  

Tamburello recites a quote that has stuck with him through his business ventures: "Familiarity destroys wonder."

He goes on to say,  "As a company, we decided that every other concept that we do will be a completely different concept. Little Man will be the only Little Man; there won't be another one. Each location will have ice creams that are only sold in that location."

Old Town Churn, for example, will serve a rotating line-up of Little Man’s handcrafted ice cream as well as shakes, malts, sundaes, banana splits, ice cream sandwiches, and the all-important “Pup Cup” in the Exchange’s dog-friendly environment. As a nod toward Fort Collins, where college, culture and agriculture meet, Churn has partnered local dairies, farms and breweries to debut exclusive new flavors like "The Exchange," pairing a Brie cheese base with crispy pancetta and Ritz crackers.

"The Exchange" ice cream flavor at Old Town Churn Ice Cream

Photo by Brooke Buchan of The Collegian

All of Tamburello's Little Man Ice Cream Company ventures are thoroughly thought-out and executed ventures. From the architecture and designs, handmade ice cream, names, locations and experiences, Tamburello is a calm and cool creative force. The company is focused on giving back, too, and it started its Scoop for Scoop program—for every scoop of ice cream purchased, a scoop of rice, beans or other essentials are donated to communities in need around the globe. 

Little Man Ice Cream company will have a total of 7 stores open by next year, each with its own story and flavor. We can't wait to see what's next from Tamburello and team.

Categories: Colorado Destinations