Taste the pursuit of happiness through the exotic flavors of Wanderlust Creamery
By Jessica Koslow
In my ideal world, there would be an artisanal ice cream shop on every corner. Lucky for me, the Westside has been well on its way to making my dreams come true with places like Ginger’s Divine Ice Cream, Salt & Straw, Sweet Rose Creamery, Small Batch and Rori’s Artisanal Creamery, just to name a few.
Wanderlust Creamery is the newest addition to Icecreamlandia. Sandwiched between Wurstküche and Floyd’s 99 Barbershop on Lincoln Boulevard, couple JP Lopez and Adrienne Borlongan’s fourth location occupies the space that once belonged to Juice Served Here.
And it’s a bright, uncluttered, beautiful space that lets the vibrant colors of their house-made ice cream do the talking. A huge glass-and-metal door raises open to a long outdoor wooden bench, where customers (who can also sit at a white-countertop bar adjoining the glass ice cream display case) lick exotic flavors inspired by Borlongan’s childhood memories, places she’s been and places she hopes to visit.
The Thailand-inspired Sticky Rice + Mango swirls with house-made rice milk, coconut cream and alphonso mango. The South American-influenced Tonka Bean is her take on vanilla: custard ice cream infused with a vanilla-like bean that has notes of toasted almond, caramel and clove. One of my favorites is Breakfast at Café Du Monde, an obvious nod to New Orleans: ice cream infused with French roast and chicory coffee, with pieces of fried beignets. Too bad that one is seasonal; I could eat it every day.
“Juice spent a lot of money on their build-out,” says Lopez of the space. “In December, we found out they went out of business, and the landlord liked us.”
This landlord wasn’t alone. Actually, several landlords had courted Wanderlust. The owner of the building near the Windward Circle that houses Great White Venice really liked the couple, says Lopez, but the space didn’t feel like a good fit.
“That spot is a little too touristy, and we’re not a touristy brand,” he explains. “We’re not trying to coax people in. We’re not a tourist trap.”
Lopez and Borlongan had also contemplated the former Sweet Lucie’s ice cream shop in Mar Vista before Small Batch scooped it up, but a few things made them decide to keep looking — the biggest one that Borlongan was about to give birth to their baby boy any day. And so Lincoln Boulevard it would be.
“I like Lincoln,” says Lopez. “It’s like the last frontier. We picked Atwater Village as our second location because I felt that all of the businesses in Atwater are representations of the owners. Lincoln stores are authentic. It’s not Abbot Kinney. Everything is individually owned. A business owner on Lincoln said to me, ‘I love Lincoln because it’s real; we’re all independent.’ There’s not just one developer developing the whole bock and only highly funded brands come in.”
Borlongan has always been an innovator. As an employee for SBE Entertainment Group, she worked as a bartender who built cocktail menus at their various locations.
“She would always create cool cocktail flavors, or make crazy macaroon flavors,” says Lopez.
Then one winter about four years ago, Borlongan said she wanted to make ice cream.
“I said, ‘Buy a machine. Put your two feet in!’” recalls Lopez.
Although the encouragement was genuine, Lopez had an ulterior motive.
“I was an attorney for the last four years,” he reveals. “It was the worst job in the world, and I was thinking, ‘I would love to get out of this.’ I quit my job one week into the first store opening.”
Now, they’ve got five babies: four ice-cream shops and one almost year-old baby, who probably gets the most attention (and rightfully so).
The entrepreneurial journey for Lopez and Borlongan can best be described as rocky road. Their first location opened in Tarzana in August 2015, and disaster struck in week one.
“We opened on Friday, and the next Friday we walked in and the freezer had shut down overnight, and all the ice cream had melted,” explains Lopez. “We had to close on Friday, and we worked through the night making ice cream so we could open at some point on Saturday.”
He continues: “I tell all my employees you can’t learn this stuff in college, there’s nothing like it. It’s trial by fire, you can’t teach it.”
They set up shop in Atwater about a year later, and this time a week before they signed the lease, Lopez’s dad broke his hip in a car accident and had to undergo surgery.
“I told him I couldn’t open the shop,” explains Lopez. “He said we had to open. … We signed the lease in mid-December 2016, and then in January 2017 we found out she was pregnant. We were super scared, but luckily Atwater did really well. It helped the Tarzana store grow and our brand grow. Babies are good luck. It’s just us two doing everything. There are no big investors backing us. I feel like David vs. Goliath.”
Despite the risk and hard work, Lopez likes his new life 110% better.
“When you’re an insurance company attorney, you walk into court and everyone hates you, like you’re the most vile person on the planet,” says Lopez. “But here, everyone’s excited to eat ice cream.”
Wanderlust Creamery, 609 Lincoln Blvd., Venice (424) 581-6093 wanderlustcreamery.com