The smell of freshly baked waffle cones wafts through Abbott’s Frozen Custard. Behind glass cases are containers of both beloved and rookie flavors. Sometimes it’s too hard to choose the perfect scoop — or scoops. But when chocolate-covered frozen bananas, custard cakes and custard cookie sandwiches are added, the decision seems impossible.
“(I) came to Bob Jones in 1997, majored in Bible Theology. I think that’s a good trajectory, no matter what your career path ends up being,” said Mark Hopper, co-owner of the Abbott’s Frozen Custard franchise in Greer. Although he graduated from BJU with theology degrees, he’s followed the paths of financial representative, small business owner and elected official.
A Heart for Service
As a high school student from Kansas City, Missouri, Hopper found BJU during the AACS and SCACS competitions. After completing his bachelor’s degree in theology he pursued both a master’s in pastoral theology and in counseling. He met his future wife Amanda online (an unorthodox method at the time), and they married in 2007. “Like I tell people all the time,” said Hopper, “you can meet someone nice anywhere and you can meet the right person anywhere.”
In fact, both Amanda and Mark discovered their mutual love for people early in their careers. For Amanda, her goal of becoming a certified nursing assistant morphed into a food service job, then insurance work. Additionally, Mark worked in social services before transitioning into the financial world. “I was recruited to Liberty Life, which is a mainstay in the Upstate insurance financial services, and figured out that was more along my forte,” he said.
Welcome to Greer
A few years later the Hoppers moved to Greer, clueless of the city’s homey vibe. A desire to serve others during their transition manifested in their community involvement.
Said Mark: “We started figuring out what a neat little community Greer was . . . and we just decided that we wanted to be servants of our community and sought to just get involved in the Greer community. And it’s been really rewarding.” They began attending Chamber of Commerce events and building relationships with others in town. The welcoming, genuine vibe of Greer won their hearts.
In 2015 they started Hopper Financial, a company that offers different types of financial planning and benefits to clients, and began working throughout the Upstate. “The insurance and investment business doesn’t necessarily have a great reputation with a lot of people,” said Mark. “But we’ve always seen it as an opportunity. . . . You can genuinely do a lot of good and genuinely help people and minister to people. And so I think that’s always appealed to us from the start.”
More than Dessert
Then, in 2016, an Abbott’s Frozen Custard opened in Greer. This small franchise based out of Rochester, New York, specializes in small batches of custard, churned fresh daily. Because the Hoppers knew the owner personally, Amanda taste tested new flavors multiple times a week. This relationship gave them insight into the community-oriented character of the brand.
After the shop struggled for a few years, the Hoppers decided to purchase it. Said Amanda: “Part of the reason we decided to buy it is because we had started making family memories here, and we would come here all the time. The first three months that it opened, I gained 10 pounds and that is not an exaggeration.”
“We weren’t necessarily passionate about the Abbott’s brand,” said Mark. “But we saw the potential for what Abbott’s could be, for what downtown Greer was becoming. . . . We just saw it as a different way to be involved in the community.” Abbott’s Frozen Custard provided a more personal, relaxed outlet than Hopper Financial for investing in Greer.
But as time passed, the Hoppers fell in love with the brand. They were able to support small dairies and family-owned bakeries in New York that contributed to Abbott’s products. The relationship they formed with the vice president and other leadership in the company felt like family. Furthermore, they put a spin on Abbott’s emphasis on community by impacting people for Christ.
“For us, it is about the community involvement and loving on our community, and custard is just the means by which we do that,” Amanda explained. “For example, a few months ago we did a night where on a Wednesday all of the sales went to our church.” By leveraging their business to raise money for church building repairs, the Hoppers created both a fun and purposeful event.
See Also: A Day Trip to Greer
Elected to Serve
As the popularity of Abbott’s grew, so did Mark’s impact on the community. “I had the opportunity to join the planning commission several years ago and then that really kind of turned into the opportunity to run for City Council in 2019,” he said. Mark was elected and took office in 2020. Some of his other responsibilities include sitting on the board of directors for Foothills Philharmonic and serving the Greater Greer Chamber of Commerce through committees.
According to Mark, his education prepared him for his unexpected positions. He believes that a solid theological foundation, supplemented by communication and critical thinking skills, equips students for just about any career.
“Specifically at the heart of a Christian institution like Bob Jones, and others, is understanding your values and what’s important to you — the lens that you’re going to look at the world through and do whatever your career is. . . . It definitely plays into how I do what I do from a public service standpoint or in business that way.”
As Greer continues to grow, the pace of downtown’s hub will increase, too. Amanda said that the keys to success in their lives are not attempting to multitask and keeping a detailed calendar.
Said Mark: “We want to grow Abbott’s and make it to be more of what it is in the community, a place where people can come and have a smile put on their face. And we can be out in the community and put smiles on people’s faces.”