Margot has the scoop on ice cream in San Juan Bautista

Kids line up to pay for their goodies at Margot's Ice Cream Parlor in San Juan. Margot's get's lots of business from the schools visiting the mission during the school year. Photo by Nick Lovejoy

Perched on a chair by the window facing the main street in downtown San Juan Bautista, Aaryahi Vaidya, 9, silently licked a cone of cookie dough ice cream.
The fourth grader had taken a class field trip to San Juan Bautista with her Milpitas elementary school to see the mission and the trip included a quick stop in Margot’s Ice Cream Parlor.
“She wanted to bring the entire family back,” said her mother, Surbhi Vaidya, 36. “I think the ice cream was the main attraction.”
In town was Aaryahi’s little sister, Vandita, who is seven years old—“the prime age for ice cream”—said her father Nikunj Vaidya, 42, as he watched the youngster tackle a gooey mess of cookie dough ice cream.
The shop on Third Street is bustling during weekdays from March through June as 300 to 500 students trek into town on school field trips to see the mission.
“You know, ice cream is happy,” said Margot Tankersley, the co-owner of the store. “Ice cream and candy. It’s a lot of fun.”
Tankersley, 49, has owned the shop for almost 19 years and acquired it as a way to sell her popular handmade candies. The business sold its first ice cream cone in summer of 1996 but Tankersley had been making candy long before. She first tried her hand at making sweets in eighth grade after a neighbor offered her a candy making kit.
“She came over and she said, ‘I’m selling these candy kits,’” Tankersley said. “So we went ahead and bought one and it took off from there.”
Those same candy-making molds followed Tankersley to college, where she sometimes sold sweets to earn gas money.
Eventually, Tankersley began attending beauty school in Salinas. She looked at buying the ice cream parlor in San Juan Bautista in October of 1995 as a way to keep selling the candies she loved to make but the sale fell through.
So, Tankersley went about her life, graduated from beauty school at the end of January and took a job at the California Hair Club in downtown Hollister.
In June, she received a call. The parlor was for sale again: was she interested?
Despite having a job at the time, Tankersley said yes, and enlisted her entire family in the production with her sister, mother and oldest daughter helping to run the business.
Originally, the shop sold Dreyer’s Ice Cream but then about a year and a half after the parlor had been in business, a representative of Lappert’s Ice Cream, a Hawaiian-based ice cream company, showed up.
“Well, he looked like a beach bum,” Tankersley said. “I was kind of like ‘I’m not sure I want to buy anything to eat from you.’ ”
But the man called Tankersley insistently for three months and finally showed up with 13 samples. Tankersley—still skeptical of the man who delivered the ice cream—tossed it in the freezer for her mom to try.
“She took one bite and she’s like ‘Where can we find this ice cream?’ ” Tankersley said.
Tankersley’s mother, Naomi Medina, teased about going to meet the famous Mr. Walter Lappert in Hawaii. Then, Medina started asking about dates and suddenly Tankersley and her oldest daughter, Kayla, were on their way to meet the icon.
While on the island, Tankersley talked with Lappert about the almond butter crunch candy she had developed while working in her ice cream parlor.
“He said, ‘wait a minute,’” Tankersley said. “He goes, ‘That belongs in an ice cream.’”
And Kayla’s Butter Crunch was born, an ice cream made especially for Tankersley’s store that includes 10 pounds of her famous handmade candy in each shipment.
After meeting Lappert, Tankersley and her family decided to sell only the Hawaiian brand of ice cream. The only problem was that the long glass cases featuring the tantalizing ice creams—called dipping cabinets in industry lingo—sold for $4,000 to $5,000 and Dreyer’s had been providing one of the store’s two cases for free.
Tankersley worked with Lappert’s son, who runs the ice cream plant in Richmond, and asked for help purchasing the case, she said.
Every inch of the place shows a little bit of Tankersley and her family. The store’s pale pink walls were a compromise between Tankersley’s favorite color, hot pink, and what her husband figured the public would enjoy.
Last week’s menu included a special called Laurie’s Frappuccino made with vanilla ice cream, raspberry syrup and milk blended with ice and named after Tankersley’s youngest daughter. Then, there is Medina’s famous pozole soup, which includes pork and hominy, is topped with onions, cabbage, cilantro and lemon, sells for $7 and brings in the locals on the weekends. Tankersley is also famous for making her tangy-sweet chocolate dipped apricots and handmade truffles.
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