CARY, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s a sweet treat — not just for the palette, but for the community.

Howdy Homemade Ice Cream in Cary isn’t a typical ice cream shop. 

When people walk into the store, there’s a brightly colored mural on one wall, and behind the counter, even brighter smiles

The rows and rows of ice cream are all made in-house. 

It’s just the cherry on top of the new non-profit business, around the corner from the growing downtown park. 

“We hire people with IDD, which is intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said owner Phillip Lin.

He opened up the shop last month and hired 13 ‘heroes’ to help him.

“We call our employees heroes. And the heroes think they’re blessed, but I feel like I’m more blessed than they are, watching them work every day,” explained Lin. 

Howdy Homemade Ice Cream is a Texas-based business, with nine franchise locations across the country.

Lin intentionally chose his location to sit next to Gigi’s Playhouse, a Down Syndrome Achievement Center.

There’s a window on the wall shared between the two businesses, which allows families at the playhouse to watch his staff hard at work.

“We can share out a mission to be able to help parents in the community understand how to help their kids better and to give them hope,” said Lin. 

This is 21-year-old Anna Merrills’ first job. 

She showed CBS 17 crews the number system they use to place orders. Each flavor, scoop number, all corresponds to a spot on a sheet Merrills has, to know what to give each customer.

“I love working here, because I work with my friends,” said Merrills. 

(Al Currie/CBS 17)

And she likes the ice cream.

“I like strawberry and birthday cake,” Merrills added with a smile.

She’s an enthusiastic worker.

“I just want to say I love working here,” she said.

And it’s what Lin hopes others in the community will learn, is something truly special. 

“A lot of people think, especially with the current economy, a lot of people say, well we have no workers,” said Lin. “Well there’s this huge population that we have not tapped into, so this is our goal… to kind of showcase their talent and showcase their skill.”

Lin hopes to open up more shops across the Triangle and hopes Raleigh will be next.