Reading resident Crystal Hodson and her brother Greg opened Fat Larry’s on December 2, 2021. They are looking forward to participating in Shop the Block as their one-year anniversary of opening nears.
With both parents Reading Memorial High School graduates, Crystal and her brother grew up in North Reading, and Crystal eventually moved into Reading herself in 2007. She had always wanted to open up an ice cream shop and finally got the opportunity when she and her brother opened up Fat Larry’s in the building owned by their father, who is the business’s namesake.
Hodson worked in the banking industry for 13 years before opening Fat Larry’s and took a big leap of faith into the restaurant industry. She took a year off between leaving the bank and opening the shop to learn the skills necessary to run the business and opened in December 2021. Hodson sings high praises for the help she received from the town with opening Fat Larry’s and finds them “beyond helpful.”
“I am thankful every single day [for opening the shop] because this may be a different stress, but I love being in my community, I love being in my shop, I love every second of it,” said Hodson.
The sandwich side of the business sees the most revenue and has even landed on Boston.com’s List of Best Sandwich Greater Boston. While Hodson’s personal favorite is the Cilantro Lime Roast Beef sandwich, the Turkey Apple Cheddar sandwich is the most popular, according to Hodson.
“First thing on the menu, the most popular sandwich, and outsells everything else by far,” said Hodson. “People will come in and want to try something new but love the [turkey apple cheddar sandwich] so much that they stick with it.”
In the summer, the ice cream sales tend to balance out sandwich sales, and flavors continue to be rotated out through the winter. Next month, Fat Larry’s will be selling Eggnog Ice Cream.
All of Fat Larry’s products are brought in from local distributors daily, including ice cream from Shaw Farms of Dracut, Fire King bread of Dedham, and a Boar’s Head provider out of Ipswich.
Despite facing hiring challenges, Fat Larry’s heaviest hours are lunch hours, and Hodson also tries to stay open for the middle-school crowd. “I think it’s so cool to have a safe space for them to come hang out,” said Hodson. “The Reading kids are the nicest kids; I feel like teenagers get such a bad rap, but they are the politest kids I have ever dealt with.”
Supply crises within the last year have also been incredibly difficult for Hodson, as prices are still fluctuating even a year after opening. Historically, restaurants don’t profit for the first two years, so issues like these become especially pertinent. “We have to take it on the chin at this point in time,” said Hodson.
Fat Larry’s has seen people coming in from other towns, but they get the largest group from Reading. “What has been really beneficial for us is being located downtown is the work-from-home life that people have now,” said Hodson. “They want a break from their home office and come in to have lunch with us, and the condos and the apartments being built downtown have been a great asset as a built-in customer base.”
Hodson is working to grow Fat Larry’s reach and continues to push its customer base outside of the Reading area. Fat Larry’s also offers catering, and Hodson hopes to increase outreach for those services to local businesses.
Hodson is an active member of the Reading community and currently serves on the Committee for the BID (Business Improvement District) and as President of the Board at RCTV.
She is looking forward to Shop the Block on December 1 because it has been her favorite event, even before becoming a business owner. Hodson herself is a “big proponent of shopping local – I literally get everything from my dog food to clothing, to housing accessories downtown.”