Velvet Cream, or “The Dip” as many locals call it, has been continuously operating longer than any other business in DeSoto county. If you ask current owner Tommy Flinn Jr. how to attain that kind of longevity, he will give you a simple answer: “One customer at a time.”
Lee Lauderdale opened Velvet Cream on July 23, 1947 on a part of his property that had previously been a cotton field. When it opened, Hernando wasn’t much more than houses on a gravel road. Somehow, Velvet Cream has survived through its tremendous growth and the opening and closing of many other establishments.
Tom Flinn Sr. purchased the restaurant in 1962. He had owned a similar business prior to the purchase in Tunica, Miss., called Delta Cream. To say Tommy Jr. grew up in the food business is an understatement.
“There was a baby bed inside Delta Cream,” he said. “I was there when I was one week old.”
Tommy Jr. was ten years old when his parents purchased Velvet Cream. It has been a family operation since, employing relatives and local high-school-aged kids. Today, Tommy Jr. runs the place, but Tom Sr. still comes in every morning and cleans the ice cream machines at the age of 82. His sister LeeAnn Kutz, his niece Brittany Kutz, his son Trey and daughter April are all regular staffers.
The fast-food restaurant and ice cream shop opened as a walk-up eatery, just as it is today. It offered a short menu, mostly hamburgers, vanilla ice cream and bottled sodas. In a growing locale, adaptation is the name of the game. It was not long until Velvet Cream was serving all three flavors, a luxury for the time, and adding a drive-thru window that they had to teach many patrons how to use.
In modern times, Velvet Cream sits right of Hernando’s bustling downtown square. It’s known for its fried delicacies, 258 shake flavors and generous portions. They also serve sno-cones, yogurts, Hawaiian ice, dipped cones and a myriad of burgers piled high with toppings.
What has not changed is the clientele. For decades, Velvet Cream has been the spot for local teenagers to hang out. It was the store’s younger customers that began calling it “The Dippy Dough” in the 195\0s, which eventually became “The Dip,” an endearing nickname passed down through generations of patrons.
“It was about the same time rock-and-roll became rock that ‘The Dippy Dough’ became ‘The Dip,’” Tommy Jr. said.
The building has undergone some changes, too. A couple hundred square feet of space has been added here and there until 2016, when a large addition was built to host parties. More renovations are coming in the next few years, mostly cosmetic.
Velvet Cream sells enough sandwiches to keep the lights on year-round, but the warmer weather brings peak season. The “Dip” experience is as much atmosphere as it is taste. Day and night, you will find droves of people standing in line. There are no tables, so they stand huddled, catching up with family and long-time friends, or sit in their car with the windows down.
“This is the kind of place where I know if one of my customers had a baby. If it’s a teenager, I know their parents and I’m watching them to make sure they’re staying out of trouble. We are friends,” Tommy Jr. said. “With a small, family-owned business, we run for election every day of the year.”
For many who call Hernando and the surrounding areas home, the draw is pure nostalgia. The sign and neon lights are remnants of a simpler time. The Dip is a landmark, welcoming them home.