Growing up in Hollister, Margot Tankersley had a knack for making sweets.
“I started making lollipops in the eighth-grade,” she says.
And by the time she was a student at Boise State University, she realized her candymaking skills could thrill more than just the select few—so she used them to her advantage.
“I sold lollipops at the student union in college for gas money to get back home from Idaho,” she says.
“Always the entrepreneur,” she laughs.
Tankersley’s ice cream parlor, which she co-owns with her mom, Naomi Medina, is now being recognized—many thanks to Tankersley’s witty entrepreneurship and delicious handiwork.
Margot’s Ice Cream Parlor in San Juan Bautista has been named San Benito County (SBC) Chamber of Commerce “Business of the Year” of 2018—one of three businesses in the county honored with the title this year.
Recipients of this award are chosen on their excellence in business, customer service, and community involvement. The SBC Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors make selections from nominations that were submitted by the community.
“We feel blessed and honored to be awarded business of the year,” Tankersley says.
The parlor is known for its premium ice cream, Lappert’s Ice Cream, which Tankersley deems the “best ice cream in the county.” It is also known for Tankersley’s delicious candies.
“So many people don’t know we make candy,” she says. “But lately, little by little, people have been recognizing that Kayla’s Kandies is our candy that we make there at our shop.”
Though Tankersley, 52, has made candy since childhood, she never considered owning a business while growing up. After graduating San Benito High School in 1983, she had other career paths set out for her.
“My parents sent me to Idaho State University for pharmacy school; I wanted to be a secretary,” she says. “So I went to pharmacy school, but my dad said ‘You’re not going there to get an MRS. degree.’”
Three years later she did indeed end up marrying her first husband—who became a pharmacist.
“And I ended up going to Boise State University to get my secretarial degree,” she laughs.
Ever the entrepreneur and handicrafter, though, Tankersley’s love of candymaking allowed her to make some sweet money after she was married—but it started with unwanted results.
“I took a cake decorating class, and then 10 pounds later I thought, there’s got to be something smaller I can make—I’m just eating too many of these cakes.” she says.
That’s when she discovered how to make candies—sweet morsels including chocolate truffles and chocolate lollipops.
Tankersley began selling candies to friends and for her husband’s work fundraisers. And when her daughter Kayla was born in 1988, she had an epiphany on what to call them.
“I said if Wendy’s can be named after [Dave Thomas’s] daughter, I’ll name mine Kayla’s Kandies,” she says.
When Tankersley returned to Hollister in 1995 with Kayla, her entrepreneurial side took over once again, and she went to school for her esthetician license.
While in school, she made some good money by getting her fellow classmates hooked on her truffles and selling it to them. She realized she needed to find a store that could make and sell her chocolates to the public.
At the same time, Medina, who ran a daycare center, was looking for a restaurant to buy in San Juan Bautista.
Fate would have it that the owners of an ice cream parlor in San Juan Bautista were selling their business.
After friends of Medina let them know, the mother daughter duo jumped at the opportunity.
“I thought, wow I can make and sell my candy there.” Tankersley says. “Well, let’s go for it, I said. How hard can it be?”
Tankersley and Medina have been co-owners of Margot’s Ice Cream Parlor since their first cone was sold on June 14, 1996.
Since opening, Tankersley married Craig Tankersley and had a daughter, Laurie, 14.
The parlor has since become part of the family, says Tankersley’s daughter, Kayla Shinneman, 29.
“Although the family has grown over the years, everyone is still involved and something about a family-run business is so incredibly special,” Shinneman.
Margot’s has sold Lappert’s Ice Cream, which is handmade in Hawaii, exclusively at the store for 20 years. And Lappert’s works with Margot’s to personalize its ice creams.
“The late Mr. Walter Lappert loved coffee and chocolate, so chocolate is in all of his flavors,” she says.
Knowing that some people don’t like chocolate, Tankersley requests Lappert’s leave the chocolate chips out of the Big Cherry Cordial ice cream, as well as the pie crust pieces and nuts out from its Pumpkin Pie ice cream, for the store.
And when Mr. Lappert heard about Tankersley’s candy, Kayla’s Almond Butter Crunch, he felt it should go in an ice cream.
“And so we do, now, have Kayla‘s Almond Crunch, and it has the candy that I make,” Tankersley says.
And what does the name holder of Margot’s candies think of her mom’s success?
“Being the face behind the famous Kayla’s Kandies has been exciting,” says Kayla Shinneman, 29. “I learned about running a business, valuable job skills, and great work ethics. I live in Oregon now, and I am very grateful I was able to attend the Chamber Award Dinner to receive the award together as a family.”
San Juan Bautista native, Barbara Gonzales, knows Margot and the ice cream parlor all too well.
Gonzales is the owner of Visions of Christmas in San Juan Bautista, and her father Louis Ayala Sr. was the owner of Plaza Market when he opened the ice cream parlor in his store. It was then moved to its current location in 1979, on 211 Third St, where Margot’s is now. Ayala’s daughter, Cindy Vasquez, was the original owner.
“She’s just a very pleasant, strong, and hard-working lady,” Gonzales says of Tankersley.
And Tankersley left an impression on Juli Vieira, President and CEO of SBC Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, when they met years ago.
“What I remembered was her smile,” Vieira says. “She has been very generous with donations to the Chamber over the years and is always willing to help when needed.”
As for Tankersley’s bright views on the future, she would like to venture out in selling her candy.
“I would love to get an online shipping and candy sales going and expand that way,” she says.
Though at the moment, Margot’s Ice Cream Parlor website is under construction, everything Tankersley does is for the love of her customers.
“We strive to give excellent product and customer service, and we’re also open seven days a week,” she says. “That makes a difference in a tourist town—we’ve got to be open.”
And walk into the ice cream parlor, and you’ll see on the menu creations that Tankersley and her daughter, Laurie, 14, have created.
“We make up items,” Tankersley says. “Laurie has ‘Laurie’s Razzmatazz’ drink that she created. And we have ‘Margot’s Granita’ and ‘Hawaii Coffee Granita,’ all made with the ice creams. I get creative when I get bored and start make up some things.”
Tankersley says that she isn’t too far off from becoming the pharmacist that her parents wanted her to be.
“I guess I go back to the chemistry of inventing stuff,” she laughs.
Margot’s Ice Cream Parlor is located at 211 Third St, San Juan Bautista, and is open Mon.-Thurs. 11am-5pm, Fri.- Sat. 11am-7pm, and Sun. 11am – 6pm. Hours are extended during summer and for special town events. Call 831.623.9262 or email [email protected] for more information.