Wil Wright’s

wilwrights

Wil Wright’s was a chain of ice cream parlors that dotted the Southern California landscape up until the mid-seventies.  There was one in Beverly Hills at the corner of Beverly Drive and Charleville, and another in Westwood Village at the corner of Glendon and Lindbrook.  (There were others but those were two I frequented.)  They were the perfect place to take a date after the movie.  The delicate pink and red decor and little marble tables and wire-frame chairs made you feel like you were seated inside a Valentine’s Day card.

I believe there was one over on San Vicente in the Pacific Palisades area. I recall stopping in there one night after a movie with a date and the place was short-handed. There were about twelve tables and all the vacant ones still had the remnants of the previous diners…dirty dishes, slightly-filled glasses, etc. We sat at one for quite a while before a waitress came over to us…and when she did, she began scolding us for sitting at a non-clean table. As if lecturing the entire room, she began ranting about, “Why do people insist on sitting down at dirty tables before we have a chance to clear them?” Well, maybe because there was nowhere else to sit or stand and you were taking your own sweet time about cleaning the tables. I think we got up and went to find a Baskin-Robbins rather than to let that person wait on us.

But usually, a Wil Wright’s was a fun place to be. I seem to recall that my dates would always order the banana split while I wondered about the Freudian implications of their orders.  I would either have a milk shake or a dish of Wil Wright’s unique orange ice which resembled frozen orange juice more than any orange ice or sorbet I’ve ever had anywhere else.

It was excellent ice cream made (apparently) on what I’m told is the Haagen-Dazs principle of ice cream: Make the same ice cream as every0ne else but ratchet up the sugar and butterfat content.  The L.A. Times at one point did an article on local ice cream parlors and suggested that Wil Wright’s product had a notably higher calorie content than, say, the 10-cent cones at your neighborhood Thrifty Drug Store…also darned good places to eat ice cream if you just wanted a cone.  I wonder if that harmed sales at Wil Wright’s and perhaps contributed to the chain’s demise.  There is still a Wil Wright’s brand of ice cream sold in some stores — perhaps not the same recipe — but I think the parlors are all gone.

This is a scan from a menu I found on eBay.  I have no idea of the year.  There was also a faded insert page with ditto printing listing sandwiches for 35 cents each…

wilwrightsmenu01a

Click above to enlarge

51 Responses to Wil Wright’s

  • Mike Rubin says:

    A friend pointed me to this website, and I promptly posted your URL to my Facebook page Thanks so much for what clearly is a labor of love on your part. I too ate at nearly all of these places, including Wil Wright’s, and I worked at Piece o’ Pizza locations for a year or two. My friends commented that you should add LaBarbera’s and Clancy Muldoon’s, both late of Wilshire Blvd. near Barrington, not so far from UCLA. We would lard up on gigantic greasy pizzas and chase them with mint chip ice cream half gallons. We’re not so svelte now, but it’s a miracle that none of us weighed 300 pounds with a routine like that! Anyway, I appreciate the memories and observations; keep ‘em coming!

  • Bonnie Zubrin says:

    I miss Wil Wright’s ice cream a lot. I wish I could find out which stores still sell Wil Wright’s ice cream. There was a Wil Wright’s ice cream parlor in West Hollywood at the corner of La Jolla and Santa Monica Blvd, just a few blocks from where I lived as a teenager. I visited that store many times with friends from the neighborhood. I wish I hadn’t taken Wil Wright’s for granted. It seems that wherever I went, there was a Wil Wright’s nearby.

  • Kyle Mathews says:

    My dad purchased a Wil Wright’s franchise store in West Covina CA in the 70′s. I can remember all the rage when it opened. It closed after a short time later.

  • Will Hamblet says:

    I remember Wil Wright’s from the late 50′s (might have even been the early 50′s) on PCH in Newport Beach. Wonder if it was the first (according to some, it was the last to close)? Tried googling, but couldn’t find any definitive info.

  • Steve Stuart says:

    Indeed, Wil Wright’s ice cream was very high in butterfat. I believe the fella responsible for making their ice cream went on to work at McConnell’s Ice Cream – but that was some time back. I still say I’ve never tasted a chocolate soda anywhere as great as Wil Wright’s. I have no idea how they created that unique flavor/texture.

    The Pacific Palisades location was at 15101 Sunset Blvd, where Coldwell Banker resides today.

  • Carolyn Kunin says:

    I often dream of Wil Wright’s parlor in Baldwin Hills where I grew up. There was a little enclave of upscale shops on Buckingham Road and a trip to Wil Wright’s was always a delight. I can still taste the raspberry sherbet, as rich as any ice cream, and the charming old-fashioned candies (‘beautiful candy too pretty to eat’) they purveyed. There was a cool clean smell I’ve never experienced anywhere else.

  • Nancy Siris-Rawls says:

    Wil Wright’s in Westwood and Beverly Hills. The best hot fudge sundaes along with CC Brown’s in Hollywood. The platter of fruit ices at WW’s…heaven!

  • kathrynn bogie says:

    I always had the same at Wil Wright’s on Sunset..coffee ice cream with Swiss chocolate and whip cream & almonds. They must have added or mixed the whipped cream with the Swiss chocolate. I have never had anything like that since. The almonds were always roasted..

  • Ric Wayman says:

    The Pacific Palisades location was on Sunset Blvd on the east side of the village. I believe there is a real estate office there now.

  • Catherine Riese says:

    I used to love going to Wil Wright’s, usually in Westwood. What I remember most is the little macaroons. Loved them! And also all the candy!

  • marko lane says:

    My father is 90 years old. He told me that Wil Wright was the inventor of the hot fudge sundae.

  • Dan Cohen says:

    I worked at Wil Wright’s in Newport Beach while in high school, through about 1973. Al Alshire was the proprietor and it was, I understand, the last Wil Wright’s to close. Really sad considering they anticipated the value of quality ingredients and a hi-butterfat content. Quality through and through.

    It was a great place to work, and a great crew to work with!

    Aloha!

  • Will Hamblet says:

    Hey Dan, was that the first Wil Wright’s? And, if it wasn’t, does anyone know what was???

  • Lynn Wms. says:

    Back in the late 60′s, on a very warm evening in Palm Springs, a Rolls Royce pulled up next to Wil Wrights. The driver jumped out and entered the shop, while a woman waited in the car, averting her face. The passenger was gossip columnist, Rona Barrett, sans makeup and wiglet.

    How I miss Wil Wrights. Those baby macaroons were stellar!

  • Vic Baron says:

    My mom date was Wil Wrights in Palm Springs in the late 1960′s. Great Memories

  • Charley says:

    I used to go to Wil Wrights in the 50′s to 70′s until they closed. Ice Cream has to be 10% butterfat to be called Ice Cream. As a comparison, Baskin Robbins was 12%. Will Wrights was 22%! And they used natural ingredients. They had the best strawberry I ever had. You would swear you were eating strawberries.

    I also used to see lots of movie stars at the Westwood store. I remember seeing Lucille Ball, Ginger Rodgers and others there.

  • Gabrielle McGraw says:

    We have acquired an original parlor table and 4 chairs. We think this is such a neat piece of history. We are however selling the set and live up in Seattle. If anyone is interested or knows of a historical place that would want them please let us know! You can check my craigslist ad in Seattle for info

    Thanks!

  • Sid Packer says:

    I was relief manager at the Wil Wright’s in West Hollywood, on Santa Monica Blvd and Harper. That was also where the plant was located. I earned $2.10/hour and it was the happiest time of my life. Many celebrities would frequent the store. Meridith McRae, Don Adams to mention a couple. The costs where higher than the above menu indicates. A sundae was $.50 and a “fancy” sundae was $.65. I worked there while going to UCLA circa 1965-1969. Good times!!!!

  • Leigh says:

    Before Baskin-Robbins, Swenson’s and Farrell’s the best ice cream was at Wil Wrights. Growing up in Santa Ana Heights, Mom and Dad always too us to the location on PCH in Newport Beach. (Pre Fashion Island days ).Fond memories.

  • Mr. Ship says:

    Pssst. Grandma Ship’s loved Wil Wrights in Westwood.
    Correct High butterfat low air and quality products.
    That Vanilla Bean has yet to be duplicated. I have tried
    them all. There is a great place in sacramento if you get
    there. I always go to the Real Swensen’s on Hyde & Green
    in SF. Bittersweet Chocolate is the Best!!!!!!

  • George Jacobs says:

    I worked at Will Wright the summer of 1955, between my college semesters. It was located in Beverly Hills, I believe on Doheny south of Wilshire. My favorite ice cream was the Nesselrode Bula, but I tried them all.

  • Bonnie says:

    I have the fondest memory of going to Will Wright’s in Beverly Hills, with my uncle on my birthday. it was our annual tradition, and I always got the banana split. He would just take one bite of it, all he wanted, but I ate the whole thing from top to bottom. I have never had a banana split anywhere but there, knowing it could never be as good as the ones they made there.

  • Dick Saklad says:

    There was a Will Wright’s in Tarzana near Reseda Blvd on Clark St.
    Hard to remember , but we only think it was operating for about a year.

  • Shelley says:

    OMG, Wil Wright’s! How many Swiss Chocolate sundaes did I eat as a child? And the baby macaroons in the little glasine envelopes – they were so small and perfect – they drove me crazy (in a very good way) as a seven-year-old connoisseur of sweets. The Beverly Drive location was right near our dentist’s office, and a visit to the dentist was often followed by a visit to Wil Wright’s. Go figure…

  • beachgal says:

    You are right on the butter fat content…I worked at the main one in the corp offices on Sunset in West Hollywood….the factory for all the chain stores was behind that Will Wright’s store and the corp office was just to the east of the ice-cream parlor. I worked there in the mid 60′s when finishing up college. There was ONE guy only who made all the ice-cream. He had done it since the 50′s and no one messed with his hand written recipes..he would not even let anyone in the office type them up nice for him! He would have me back when it was time and a new batch was ready to set up. Their ‘known’ specialty was called Nesslerode – it had fermented sugared candy in it – kind of like the candy in Spomoni or in fruit cake. Nesslerode cost more money than other flavors to make and they charged customers more if they ordered that flavor. They had a specialty flavor each month or until it ran out. It was only made once and the supply was small because the kitchen was small and that cook/chef only believed in small batches. I can recall he got ready to make one he dreamed up for a special … it was going to be Grapenuts ice-cream…and the order of Grapenuts cereal did not arrive when he was ready to go for it – I had to drive all over the place to groceries stores around for 25 miles and buy up all the Grapenuts at retail prices for him – he could not wait – it had to be made that day. The Corp Prez about had a fit when he found out we bought it retail and had all those Grapenuts coming in still that were in shipment. He finally made arrangements to sell what we got on our Grapenuts order to small grocery stores all over the LA and Valley area. A couple other employees were paid to drive it around and deliver…I bet even then it was against the state health codes to do that!!! Oh and Will Wrights never got permission to even use the Grapenuts name and no one ever caught on! Sometime after I left in ’66 Will Wrights was taken over under the IHOP umbrella. It was still all hand-made but things started to change with how the parlors were (not) run after that point. It was over $1 a scoop in ’65 – that was very pricy then!

  • beachgal says:

    Just looked up at the comments – someone worked at the ‘factory’ Will Wrights when I did! …they say it was on Santa Monica and not Sunset….I was thinking I was on Sunset – but maybe it was Santa Monica…it was the one in West Ho. Maybe I am thinking because next to it to the east was located ‘The Institute of Love’ and I have that associated with being a far to the end of Sunset Strip place…their employees used to park in our few spots behind the corp offices and the boss went nuts – I had to go over next door and tell the ‘main lady/owner’ of the Institute of Love to get those cars moved out! What the heck were pinball machines doing in the front entrance room of the Institute of Love – no idea but the place got raided a few times when I worked there! So yes…I think I looped down Sunset – my place I lived in was in Nichols Cyn (part of Laurel Cyn) and I would have gone all the way down Sunset west then dropped down to Santa Monica Blvd. I guess.

  • beachgal says:

    To Lynn Wms…Rhona Barrett is still alive as of today’s date – she moved up to the Santa Ynez Valley – she was living in a ranchette there – she fell in love with the area when a fav of her’s from KABC days…Ralph Story moved up there and she followed when she retired. After I left Will Wrights I went to work at KABC/ABC Studios on Prospect in Hollywood…Ralph came to start the AM LA show in 70′s from KCBS where I had also worked during same time I worked at Will Wrights (in part) – it was a nothing pays job so I had to pick up work where I could that fit between my classes.

    To the lady who wrote she ate at the one in Newport on PCH – we did too in the 50′s – my folks belonged to the Balboa Bay Club then and we would tootle down PCH to have an ice-cream…sometimes we went after we had been to a restaurant that was both on Balboa as well as one in Newport called The Jolly Roger.

  • wes says:

    I had no idea Wil Wright’s was a chain. There was one in Palm Springs that my dad took me to when I was little. It was a cop hangout and my dad and all his fellow cops always went there for coffee. After Wil Wright’s, it became the Pickle Barrel and continued to be a cop hangout. Today it is Sherman’s Deli, which is one of the best places to eat in Palm Springs.

  • LM says:

    I remember going to the location in Newport Beach and getting peppermint stick ice cream, probably in the 60′s. Just checked the menu above and they do indeed list peppermint!

  • Joe says:

    I found a reference here to Wil Wright’s in this piece supposedly by Marilyn Monroe. A hot fudge sundae was part of her routine diet. I’m not sure which branch the photograph was taken. Great website, many thanks. Joe

    http://misspennydreadful.tumblr.com/post/59109131642/how-i-stay-in-shape-by-marilyn-monroe-pageant?utm_source=buffer&utm_campaign=Buffer&utm_content=bufferb9eac&utm_medium=twitter

  • Don Hilliard says:

    After reading this, I have to wonder if Swensen’s took over some of Wil Wright’s northernmost shops. When I was a kid (and even into my early teens, which would be the ’80s), the local Swensen’s in Santa Maria hit Mark’s description of “being inside a giant Valentine’s card” exactly, as did the one in Santa Barbara further down the coast. Pink walls, white trim, faux-marble tables, iron wire chairs with a heart-shaped backrest upholstered in red.

    Thing is, I also encountered Swensen’s in their home territory (San Francisco and environs) a couple of times in the same era, and they were nothing like that. (Lots of dark wood and Tiffany glass – pretty, but absolutely opposite to what I’d seen before.)

    Santa Maria was (and for all I know still is) the first town considered “Southern California” vs. “Northern California” – there were times when we could drive ten miles in either direction and get different specials at state/national restaurants and stores due to the division.

  • Randy Gates says:

    When I lived in Newport Beach in the early 60′s my father sent us on many bike rides to get the Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, It was the “best”. The ride took us across Hwy 101, the store was near the back bay bridge. My Father sold our house to John Wayne in 1964 and we moved to Needles CA. Memories of Wil Wright’s Ice Cream are Awesome!

  • Randy Bash says:

    Loved Wil Wright’s! Chocolate ice cream sodas were my favorite. They always gave you a little macaroon with it. There was also a candy counter. Spent a lot of my childhood at the Wil Wright’s in Westwood Village. Truly miss it!

  • John Crosthwaite says:

    I was manager for Wil Wrights located on Vine St. For three years early 60″s worked alongside several guys who went on to show business..It was
    three great years serving many show people.

  • Stephanie says:

    http://www.sfchronicle.com/music/article/Rascals-show-revisits-era-of-good-lovin-playin-4879431.php

    Today’s San Francisco Chronicle carries this photo of The Rascals. It must be at Wil Wright’s!

  • Dexter says:

    I worked at the Wil Wright’s near Baldwin Hills on Marlton Ave. I can’t tell you how many little Macaroon Cookie’s I had to bag.

    Flip Wilson use to come in there, hey Geraldine!

  • Michelle Van Elzakker says:

    My first job was at Wil Wrights in Pasadena. Shortly following my lead many friends got jobs there and it was some of the best years of my life. I met my husband there and we have been married 43 years. I loved going to work one night I was introduced to Jimmie Hendrix who came in with his good friend who worked with us. Great food fabulous memories. Thanks for reminding us !

  • larry lewis says:

    They just don’t have places like this any more–and that’s sad.

  • Jan Cahill says:

    That ice cream was so rich the cream would stick to the roof of your mouth! My fav was the chocolate chip. Fun project of yours. Would you happen to remember the name of the pharmacy at Beverly and Little Santa Monica?

  • Roxanne says:

    Hey – I remember staying at my Grandparents when they lived at Bayshore Trailer Park on the corner of PCH & Dover! I have fond memories of the Wil Wright’s store and the bait shop next door! Does anybody else besides me remember the glass jars of bubble gum balls at WW’s?! And their ice cream was the best! Also remember getting the cinnamon toothpicks in the teeny wax-paper bags and sucking on one on the way back to my GP’s trailer. Does anybody also remember swimming in the bay w/the wooden raft?! And the guys jumping off the bridge? Great times!

  • Gary Hess says:

    I fondly remember the location in Newport Beach. I grew up right across PCH in Bayshores during the 60′s and 70′s and would brave crawling under the back bay bridge to get there. When you would walk in the door, there would be rows upon rows of glass jars with old time candy costing 1 cent each! My dentist who was just up Dover loved having Will Wrights there! Right next store was Big Eds tackle shop. Great memories during a care free youth.

  • Cathy P. says:

    I have very endearing memories of this chain as a little girl. It was a real treat to be taken to one of these ice cream parlors and I don’t remember which location we went to, but it was always the same one. I felt like a real princess and remember wearing my favorite black patent leather party shoes and a party dress whenever we would go there together as a family. I wish these parlors could still be found. I sure miss them! My mother would order marzipans that looked like tiny fruit. They were amazing! I used to get a macaroon with my scoop of vanilla ice cream in a fancy glass dish with a stem.

  • Bill Stevens says:

    Wil Wright was one of those “unique” alternative lifestyle boyz who lived north of Sunset Blvd..and could he ever throw a party. i forgot the urban legend as to his death. but, as i recall, he had a couple of military “house guests” that robbed him; stole his car; pulled out all the phones (except they missed one that allowed beaten Wil to call the police)..and he expire as a lonely but wealthy man with many friends.
    How he got into the decadent ice cream business i’ll never know…but there has never been anything like it since.
    RIP Wil…I still hanker for those macaroons and that hedonistic hot fudge!

  • Robin 'Roblimo' Miller, Manatee County FL says:

    When I was a child in Los Angeles (1950s) there was no treat I liked better than a Wil Wright’s banana split. And macaroons. I’m in my 60s and in Florida, and I can still taste them…

  • Julian says:

    Back in 1959-62 my girl-friend Janet and I often drove down from Long Beach to Wil Wright’s on PCH in Newport Beach. We always had the same – Chocolate Mint sodas – with extra soda in small flask to make them last longer. Such great memories! It wasn’t just that they had the best ice cream anywhere, but it was the whole package, the decor, the marble-top tables for two and the sweetness of it all!

  • Virginia Downs says:

    I worked at Wil Wright’s in Palm Springs, ca. It was a blast! “Look for the bean in the cream!”

  • Aston Banniser says:

    Real Sodas and Cocoanut Macaroon Heaven…got forever now..

  • mark says:

    found Wil Wright’s ice cream at gelson’s
    McConnells out of Santa Barbara makes it!
    also, I believe he was murdered near the top of rising glen rd
    above sunset plaza dr and not in Nichols canyon which is further east..

  • Cindy says:

    Remembering Watermelon Ice @ the one in Palm Springs – where, oh where?

  • Christian says:

    Best. Macaroons. EVER!

  • Tom says:

    Ahhh, the one in Westwood….best ice cream and remember one night we were stuffing our faces with their great chocolate ice cream and in walked this beige/white looking woman who sat at the table next to ours. When we left, my parents told us who it was….Marilyn Monroe.

    They did not say anything when we were there as our family always respected privacy….now, I appreciate how they were.

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