CARTERVILLE – Superman may not fly through Carterville every day, but he won’t be forgotten. There, on the Jasper County town’s main drag (about one hour west of Springfield), a museum is filled with more than 3,000 pieces of memorabilia honoring the superhero — and large tubs of ice cream that bring local folks and those from far away together.
And if the small building wasn’t enough to remind us of Superman’s effort to serve the greater good, the people behind the counter serve as his deputies.
“Kids come in all the time,” says Andrea Parsons-Briley, who owns the shop with her husband, Chris.
“Almost daily, I have three or four bikes out there with neighborhood kids. And really, I’ve got several that will just come in and talk. And I always tell them, ‘If you’re cold, you can come in. Just come in to stay warm.’ ‘Well, I don’t have any money.’ ‘I don’t care, come on in.’ So they’ll hang out with me and I’ll try to pay attention, if it’s getting dark, shoo them on out and send them home.”
The couple became the owners of Supertam on 66 in September 2021. (And yes, it’s Supertam, not Superman. “Locals even argue with you,” says Chris. “They say, ‘You misspelled that.’” More on that story in a minute.)
It wasn’t their first involvement in the community: Andrea is a Special Education teacher at the town’s school, a role which she has held for six years, and regularly comes to work at the shop after she’s done teaching for the day.
“This was really cool because my kids always came here and ate ice cream growing up,“ she says of her new role as owner.
Back when she and her kids visited, Supertam was owned by Larry Tamminen, its founder and owner. He began it in 2006 – after decades were spent amassing memorabilia – as a way to share his collection with others. All of that led to its original name.
“He had it named Superman on 66 but DC Comics found out, so they sued him and gave him a cease and desist order,” says Andrea.
“That letter’s in the bathroom,” chimes in Chris.
“He framed it and put it over the toilet,” continues Andrea. “That’s how much he thought of it.”
When health concerns led Tamminen to look for a new owner, the couple became the ones to continue the legacy.
“He wanted to make sure it went to someone who was going to try to keep it going,” says Andrea.
And they have: No memorabilia has been removed, the couple says. The one change they have made, however, is with regards to how close you can get to the items.
“The first thing we did when we came in here was take the ‘Do not touch’ signs off of everything,” says Chris.
“Parents are always telling their kids not to touch stuff, but I really kind of enjoy, after everybody’s gone, or on a day when we don’t have very much business, walking around and seeing the tiny fingerprints,” says Andrea. “I’m just like, ‘Aw, there was a little baby here.’”
A steady stream of customers visit the shop on a recent Saturday afternoon. A couple of guys, one who is on his first visit, order drinks made with an electric mixer. A woman and little boy order a banana split. Others order by the scoop, sourced from Wisconsin from a business called Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream.
There are the expected flavors — old-fashioned vanilla, peppermint stick, strawberry, rocky road and more — but also some a bit more extraordinary (but perhaps not so much when you consider the venue) like Superman – a swirl of vanilla, cherry and Blue Moon.
“We make the waffle cones, and then we make cookies and make ice cream sandwiches and brownies – I say for brownie sundaes, but I’m surprised, a lot of people just come in and order a brownie,” says Andrea.
And while most of those folks appear to be local, on other days the visitors come from much farther away. The shop is a regular stop, the owners say, for travelers on Route 66.
“We like community and we like to talk to all the people. We’ve met a lot of people we didn’t know and they didn’t realize who we were,” says Andrea. “It’s just been a lot of fun.”
And the very first one was Tamminen.
“When he came in, he was our first customer – he loves Zanzabar – he came in and bought a bowl of it and sat out at one of the tables and said, ‘You know what? You did good.’ I said, ‘Thank you.’”
Want to visit?
Location: 221 W Main St, Carterville, MO 64835
For more information about Supertam on 66, click here to visit the ice cream parlor and museum’s Facebook page.