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A Legacied Neighborhood Ice Cream Shop

By Nora Heston Tarte | Photos by Darren Lovecchio

Isaac Lappert ate more ice cream than any other child, growing up. That’s because his father, Michael, owned and operated a Sausalitobased family ice cream shop called Lappert’s Ice Cream, and his grandfather operated an ice cream store in Kauai, Hawaii, at the same time. At five years old, when Lappert begged to start helping out in the shop, he quickly learned the flavors. He started with vanilla, then discovered chocolate; then cookies and cream and similar flavors became his favorites. As an adult, his favorite flavor is the trademark Kauai Pie: coffee ice cream with chocolate fudge, toasted coconuts, and macadamia nuts.

Working full time at the ice cream shop at seven years old didn’t feel out of the norm—he begged for the job, but his father thought he was too young to work. “I used to have to belly flop over the dipping cabinet because I wasn’t tall enough,” Lappert recalls, adding that customers often looked right over his head when he was working the counter. But Isaac had been selling candy bars at the park to make his own money when he was four, so getting a paycheck from his father seemed to be the reasonable next step.

Now, Lappert has taken over. His father, nearly 70 years old, still helps out. “We’re all labor workers in this kind of industry,” says Lappert. “We have to break our humps to turn a profit.” Customers are often surprised to see him doing the grunt work, but seven days a week, he’s scooping ice cream, taking out the trash, and watching over the employees. In addition to ten ice cream shops sprinkled throughout the Bay Area, the family also owns a chocolate shop, a fish and chips restaurant, and a hamburger joint with a cult following and a daily line out the door. All of them are nameless, except the hamburger restaurant, which is simply called “Hamburgers.”

Lappert Ice Cream is also sold in shops across the country. The family doesn’t franchise—business owners can call and ask for a shipment of ice cream. The newest partnership is with The Oxbow Center in Napa. Lappert says that the best profits come from the ice cream they scoop themselves, but the wholesale side of the business is easier money.

In 2018, Lappert also completed a brief stint on TV, starring in ten episodes of “The Ice Cream Show” for HBO-affiliate Vice TV. Reruns still play today. “It’s a lot of work,” Lappert says of the ice cream business. But he has never imagined doing anything else. His older brother, the one whom Lappert always felt was being groomed to take over the shop, became a firefighter, and Lappert gradually started heading the family business. There was no formal changing of hands. “It just is,” says Lappert.

His two-year-old son, Atticus, seems to be following in his father’s footsteps. “This kid has probably eaten more ice cream than any baby on the planet,” Lappert says, laughing. More than an official taste tester, Atticus is Lappert’s shadow at the shop—or perhaps vice versa. “I’m no longer just Isaac, I’m ‘Atticus’s dad,’” says Lappert, adding that the first question out of customers’ mouths when Atticus isn’t at work with daddy is where he is. When you ask Atticus what he wants to do when he grows up, he’ll even tell you, “Scoop ice cream.” But as far as Lappert is concerned, “My son can do whatever the hell he wants with his life, as long as he’s happy and healthy. It’s a rookie mistake of any parent to push a child into something.”

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