Laurel Santos started selling her ice cream from the front stoop of her house in Faubourg Marigny last year, after moving to New Orleans from San Francisco in 2012. After selling her creative flavors to friends and neighbors, Santos launched Laurel's Licks (504-729-0577; www.facebook.com/laurelslicks.nola). While doing pop-ups throughout the city in her spare time, Santos works full time as a mental health counselor. She spoke with Gambit about turning her hobby into a business and how living in New Orleans has made it easier for her.
What inspired you to go into the ice cream business?
Santos: In San Francisco, there's this ice cream shop called Humphry Slocombe and they make this flavor called Secret Breakfast. It's got bourbon and cornflake cookies in it, and it's amazing. So one day ... I was just craving it badly, so I decided to try to make it myself. I made a huge batch — way too much — and gave it to a bunch of my friends to try. Eventually, I was talking with a friend, and they asked me why I didn't start selling it from (my) house myself. So I started popping up, just once a week at first, and then it just grew from there.
Basically, Humphry Slocombe is my inspiration for all my flavors. Everyone can make vanilla, but I think that any flavor can go into ice cream. If you have an idea for something, try it. I've been thinking about doing a flavor with cheese and honey and almonds — I like the idea of sweet and savory and I like salty, unique tastes. I'm also doing a hot toddy with gingersnaps. It's made with whiskey, lemon and honey. I like texture and bite in my ice cream. And I don't use a machine: I do it all by hand.
How do you balance a full-time job and running a pop-up?
S: It can be a lot to juggle. I work with people who have a mental illness during the day, and I make the ice cream on the side at night. It's harder for me to get up in the morning to go to the gym because I just like to stay up late and make ice cream ... and I'm always thinking of new flavors. I think in an ideal world I would be able to do it seasonally, or maybe just a few days a week. One good thing is that when you get to be elusive and just sell whatever you want a few days a week, people tend to crave it more; there's more demand.
I've started to branch out a little more. I did the St. Claude Food Truck Park last fall, and I've done some things with a couple of nonprofits. I'm getting ready to do my first wedding soon, and I do custom orders on request.
San Francisco and New Orleans are both big food towns. What differences have you observed in running a business?
S: I remember in San Francisco, there were these girls — they operated a tiny cookie pop-up out of their apartment. They would dangle a string out of their window with a clothespin attached to it and people would just walk by and pull on it. Then, the girls would send down a cookie, while the people would send up money attached to the string. I think they got shut down in, like, two weeks or something like that, but for some reason, there was something about them that stuck with me.
San Francisco and New Orleans are both big food cities, and there are similarities, but everything is so much more laid back here, and way more easygoing and friendly. For a (business owner), it's so much more feasible to start something here. In San Francisco, I never could have done it. It would have to have been my world. I would have had to have so much money and so many permits just to do a pop-up.