Written by Alyssa Pieprzyca Photos by Autumn Davis & Devin Hendricks
When you’re addicted, you’ll do anything to get your fix, including bribing your (broke) nineteen year old daughter with twenty bucks, to go out and buy ice cream at 10 o’clock at night, dressed in her pajamas, in 40 degree weather. Who is this addict? And better yet, who is this enabler? Hello, my name is Alyssa and my mom’s addicted to ice cream. Let me explain. She’s so addicted that we can’t even buy it for our house. She will finish that whole tub before you can even get a spoon. You might think I’m exaggerating, or that late night ice cream run only happened one time, but you are mistaken. My mom went through a Baskin Robbins phase, a Thrifty’s phase and now, Magpies. You also might be wondering why I “enable” her ice cream addiction. Well then you probably haven’t had Magpies Softserve.
On the eastside of Los Angeles in the trendy neighborhood of Silver Lake, you will find the shop that started it all. There, I sat down with Rose Schwartz, co-owner of Magpies Softserve, to get the real backstory behind this delicious and successful shop.
Her husband and her both share a background in culinary and both loved ice cream. "In the beginning," she starts, "we wanted to do the hard scoop-able ice cream and we spent some time traveling around some joints in LA. It’s chef driven and they’ve got it all. We honestly got a little scared, how are we gonna just jump into a market that's already saturated? We walked into a Dairy Queen in Palm Springs, it was 115 degrees, we had the kids, we were tired and we were just like, ‘Ugh. Let’s just get a cone.’ We sat down and we were like, this is what we need to do. There’s no softserve, chef driven, seasonal flavors, they don’t have that. So that's how the idea was born, in a Dairy Queen. It’s not like we reinvented the wheel, we just kind of put a modern spin on it."
"We sat down and we were like, this is what we need to do. There’s no softserve, chef driven, seasonal flavors, they don’t have that. So that's how the idea was born, in a Dairy Queen. It’s not like we reinvented the wheel, we just kind of put a modern spin on it."
And Magpies is far from a Dairy Queen. From their “Instagram wall,” to their flavor choices, to the display of toppings you can add to your soft serve. Not only is it so trendy and fresh looking you might just order from them because you want to say you’ve been there, it’s the actual soft serve that takes your taste buds back to your childhood. Even though Rose has a Chemistry degree, we can thank our lucky stars that she shifted her gears towards culinary school and managed to use her chemistry skills to develop the perfectly sweet amount of soft serve for those of us who like sweet, and those like my mom, who love sweet.
And Rose makes them all from scratch. After looking high and low for soft serve recipes, she quickly found out there are none, "It took two years to do the research and development on how to make soft serve, and I made some pretty disgusting ones," she laughs. "I bought a small table top softserve machine and kept it on the counter at our house, and I would make all these bases. I would play around with different flavors and different milk bases. It was a process but once I got there I came up with our ‘Sweet Cream,’ which is our plain ‘white’ flavor. I like to say it's our ‘house vanilla’ but there’s no vanilla in it. And with that, I flavor it and alter the sugar levels.”
"I like to say it's our ‘house vanilla’ but there’s no vanilla in it. And with that, I flavor it and alter the sugar levels.”
Magpies' is always switching it up---literally. “We rotate our flavors," she explains. "We always have the Sweet Cream, Malted Milk, and Corn Almond, the rest we rotate every two weeks. We like to do fun flavors for the holidays too. We put up flavors like red velvet and roasted strawberry for Valentine’s Day so people can Instagram it.
I make all the toppings in house except for the sprinkles. I attempted making the sprinkles by hand and I would spend all day making it and would end up making a quart of it. Then it would be gone in 2 hours. The kids all want sprinkles, so I was like I can’t do this.”
Aside from the sprinkles, Magpies is highly successful. "What would be your advice to people thinking about starting their own business," I asked.
“Have a solid concept, and believe in that one product. Believe in that one thing that you do that you truly believe in, because you’re going to have to repeat the story over and over. See if it does well. That’s what we did, I believed in the soft serve itself and I pushed it. Everyone wanted me to offer this and this and I was like no, this is what I want to do.”
Rose knew starting a softserve shop in Los Angeles was going to be tricky but as it turns out, Magpies is different than the rest. After Magpies started rolling, she noticed that with food, its the things that are kind of nostalgic that do really well, "It kind of speaks to your childhood and I think that's why soft serve does well. There’s something that takes you back, you know, people are like ‘I used to go with my grandparents.’ I think our best selling one is the Corn Almond.The best selling topping is Honey Comb, and everyone says the same thing. Their grandma would get Honey Comb and ‘I didn’t even know you could make it, I can never find it.’ It’s nostalgia.”
When I was little, sweet treats were always easy to grab, possibly so easy that I just ruined my sweet tooth at a very young age. On the other hand, my grandma kept sweets out of my mother's hands, which is most likely the reason why my mom grabs sweets any chance she gets. Maybe Rose is right after all. Sweet treats like softserve really do speak to your childhood and literally do take you back.
To the Baskin Robbins phase, Thrifty’s phase and now Magpies, this one definitely takes the spoon. Magpies is just the right amount of sweet for both me and my sugar obsessed mama. It's the place where my mom and I's taste buds can meet in the middle. With such an adorable shop and chef driven ice cream flavors, it's practically impossible to say no to Magpies, and truth be told, I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.