We sit down for a little Q&A with Laura O’Neill, Co-Founder of the delicious Van Leeuwen Ice Cream.
Fellow Australian and long-time friend of our Founder Nick Stone, Laura tells us about the passion behind VL Ice Cream, her obsessive dedication and the exciting collaboration at our new Montauk location. Finally, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream meets Bluestone Lane Coffee and it is delicious. Now let’s hear from the woman behind the business —
BL: Tell us about yourself – how did you end up in New York from Melbourne?
LO: I grew up in Melbourne, Australia and moved to NYC in 2007 after having met my now business partner Ben Van Leeuwen on a trip to London. Shortly before I arrived, Ben, Pete Van Leeuwen and I hatched an idea to do fancy ice cream trucks in NYC. The three of us worked round the clock on a business plan, recipes and truck design from the apartment we shared in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and in June of 2008 rolled out our first VL ice cream truck on the street of SOHO.
Congratulations on all your success with Van Leeuwen. Could you tell us about this journey and why ice-cream?
The idea for trucks came from a summer ice cream truck job Ben and Pete had in their home state of CT during college. The boys knew that it could be a lucrative business model, but felt uninspired by the stock standard ice creams on sticks they had been selling. One day shortly before graduation, Ben was in NYC and noticed there were lots of ice cream trucks, but no one was serving anything truly special. Being the food obsessed trio we are, we taught ourselves how to make ice cream and set out to make the best ice cream, using real ingredients, no fillers and the best chocolates, fruits, nuts, teas and spices we could find. In the early days we perfected the classics, but now days we are much more adventurous with lot of cookies, crumbles, chunks, candies, fluff and swirls, all made with an obsessive dedication to quality and always from scratch.
We recently moved in to our brand new ice cream factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and have scoop shops and trucks in NYC and LA as well as pints in Whole Foods Markets and other stores in the tri-state area, with plans to launch those nationally ASAP!
You and Nick Stone (Founder of Bluestone Lane) have known each other for nearly 20 years and used to holiday at the same costal town of Lorne in Victoria Australia. Seems appropriate that you’re collaborating on Bluestone Lane’s Beach House in Montauk NY? Tell us about this?
20 years! OMG! It’s great to see other Aussie doing awesome things over here, especially old friends like Nick! We were thrilled when Nick suggested collaborating in Montauk. It’s an awesome town and definitely a summer destination for many VL devotees.
You’re one seriously busy woman with interests outside of VL including music and also a Balinese cuisine influenced restaurant Selamat Pagi in Brooklyn, tell us about these projects and what a regular day looks like for you?
Running a small business means there’s never really a “regular day”. Although we’ve grown a lot we are still extremely hands on, so our days are usually full of some fun creative ice cream stuff and then a few curve balls to trouble shoot! Being my own boss allows me the luxury to make time for other things that are important me, and NYC is a great place for creative side projects to take root.
Along with my VL partners, I run Selamat Pagi an Indonesian restaurant born out of our love for the food we discovered on trips to Bali. Luckily we have an awesome Chef and GM who do an amazing job running the show while we are busy with all things VL.
I’m also one half of garage pop band “Laura and Greg” we’ve been playing out for the past couple of years and have been able to do some touring down to Austin for SXSW, over to the midwest and last summer, to Australia.
My other pet project is “No Lights, No Lycra“, an hour long weekly dance jam in the dark that takes place in a church basement Tuesday nights in Greenpoint. NLNL is a concept that was started by my friends Alice Glenn and Heidi Barrett in Melbourne and the Brooklyn chapter just celebrated 6 years. I think being able to do so many different things is what I love about NYC and what has kept me happy here for so long.
Do you miss Melbourne and if so, what parts?
I definitely miss Melbourne, especially family and friends, but luckily get to go home each xmas and have had many visitors over the years. I do miss being a short drive to Lorne, but will have to come hang at Bluestone Lane in Montauk this summer 🙂
So what’s in-store for Laura and Van Leeuwen over the next 12 months?
We have a third store opening in LA this summer, which we are very excited about. We also just worked with Pentagram on a new pint packaging design that will be rolling out in a couple of months, with lots of amazing new flavors. As for music we are working on our second full length that we hope to have out in the Fall. Other than that, you can find me busy in our new factory, gigging around Brooklyn or dancing in the dark on Tuesdays 😉
Find out more about Laura and Van Leeuwen at www.vanleeuwenicecream.com.