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

89 Responses to Wil Wright’s

  • 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.

  • Quigs says:

    I remember the one in West Hollywood. It was located on Santa Monica Blvd., east of La Cienega.

  • Brad says:

    Does anyone remember the ice cream parlor on pico snd overland where Bank of America is?

  • RandyT says:

    There was a Wil Wright’s in Tarzana. Very good ice cream. Reminded one of a candy store/ice cream shop of the early 1900s.

  • Chris Taylor says:

    I worked at the Tarzana store from 1968 to the closing in about 1973 (if my memory serves me right) It was taken back from the franchise and killed for whatever reason. The quality of the ice cream plummeted and it never recovered their clientele.
    When I started, it was a company store owned by International Industries. It went franchise soon after I started and was owned by Rich and Ralph Hansel.
    It was absolutely fun to work there, the owners were like one of the gang, and it the ice cream was the best…nothing touches it today! All the brands available are inferior in comparison.
    The macaroons are available in Agoura at the Wildflour Bakery, located off Kanan Rd, near Trader Joe’s Market.

  • Steve White says:

    My father would drive me to Beverly Hills to the Will Wrights there. I’d order a coffee flavor soda with peppermint ice cream. It was the best peppermint ice cream ever. We’d sit on the wrought iron chairs with the pink and white striped seats and read the names of all the movie stars who had ice cream them on the back of the menu.

  • Pam Gram says:

    Here is another institution! My parents used to take us to Clearman’s Golden Cock on Huntington Drive for dinner and then we would go to Wil Wright’s Ice Cream Pallor on Colorado Blvd. for dessert. My mother always got the coffee sundae which came with a macaroon. After having dessert, we would walk across the street and go to Vroman’s Bookstore. I don’t know what made their coffee syrup so good on that sundae, but it was always my favorite! As I recall, they also had a location down in Newport Beach on PCH.

  • Bill Power says:

    Westwood, Mid 1940’s, Will Wrights, Raspberry Sundae with Cocoanut Ice Cream, Heaven!!!!

  • Judy says:

    Wil Wright’s in the Palisades!! On the corner of Sunset and Carey. The first place I ever had Vanilla Bean. I remember the little round macaroon cookies they served. My grandma took me there when she visited. A special and sweet place. Right across the driveway was a KFC. So long ago…

  • John Hindsill says:

    My memory of WW,W, about the same time as that of Mr. Power, is a Sunday sundae outing. My mother pointed out to my dad that Jack Benny and Mary Livingston were enjoying a treat a few tables away. My 5/6 year old self was only vaguely aware of them…but had we seen Roy or Gene, it woud have been a big deal for me.

  • Bill Power says:

    Westwood–1946-47–Will Wrights–Raspberry Sundae with Cocoanut Ice Cream–HEAVEN.

  • Leslye says:

    I grew up going to the Wil Wrights on Sunset Plaza just east of Holloway Drive! OMG the macaroons with every scoop and decor of a genuine ice cream parlor where you could actually sit for a while. Bring back the ice cream parlors like this!

  • Larry Olson says:

    I noticed Quig’s comments about the Wil Wright’s store on Santa Monica Blvd. It was a couple of blocks west of Crescent Heights. The building is still there. In the early ’60’s, I was the chief teller at Security-First National Bank (now Bank of America) on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Crescent Heights and was a regular customer there. The store manager made a deal with me: a free sundae if I would deliver rolls of coins and $1 bills to the restaurant on a regular basis. Needless to say, I gained a bit of weight in those years. Nothing comes close to that scrumptious ice cream and macaroons. Not many people know that the factory where the ice cream was produced was located in an adjoining building (also still there), as was Mr. Wright’s office. C. C. Brown’s on Hollywood Blvd near the Chinese theater ran a close second to Wil Wright’s. Warmly remembered and sorely missed.

  • Candy Dance says:

    i still dream about the almond macaroons and the fresh homemade hot fudge, the kind that isn’t smooth, its got a bit of bite.. HOME MADE!.. dreamy.. i lived down the street and when i was three got out of the yard when my mom was asleep, and made it all the way up there. no money of course, the adventure was the long walk.. tg it was the 50’s and i didn’t get stolen away..

  • Linda says:

    Does anyone remember The Wil Wrights America in Eatland Shopping center in West Covina? I work there in 1970. Loved the Ice Cream!! Food was great too! Lots of good memories.

  • Lexuses71 says:

    I recall a Wil Wright’s store in the Crenshaw Shopping Center (Santa Barbara Ave @ Marlton Ave), long before it became the Baldwin Hills Mall. My folks would take my sis & I there after dinner at Hody’s and a movie at the Baldwin Theatre. Then the richest ice cream around and my Dad loved it. A simpler time that was. This was in the ’60s.

  • meg wolf says:

    does anyone know how to make wi wrights lime frappe? my favorite

  • Ned says:

    I worked at the Bev. Hills store from 1964-1966 while attending UCLA. I was one of the ass’t mgrs. there 65-66. I also worked fill-in at Pacific Palisades on Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood on Santa Monica Blvd. (where the factory was located) and in Westwood. Nothing like this exists now, and it’s a pity. Thanks to EBay, I have menus, match books and 4 of those little water glasses. Oh, for a coffee milk shake made with coffee and chocolate burnt almond ice cream followed with a scoop of nesselrode bula!

  • Ned says:

    The lime frappe is made with lime ice and soda water. I still remember how to make everything on the menu.

  • Sid says:

    I used to work at Wil Wright’s on Santa Monica Blvd and Harper. Left in 1970 when I graduated college. I was promoted to manager and made a whopping $2.15/hour. They offered my $2.25 if I would stay. I also worked at the stores in Westwood, Beverly Hills, Sunset Strip and Crenshaw area. Great times!

  • Brian says:

    We’d go to Palm Springs in the summer in the ’60s when I was 5 – 10 years old. One of my strongest memories was going to the Will Wrights on Palm Canyon.

    It would be 110, 115 degrees and then you’d walk into this little air conditioned wonderland. As many here have said, the pink and red colors, the two person little marble tables, the wire chairs with round red and white striped cushions- I can see it clear as a bell to this day. Raspberry, lemon or lime sorbet was my choice. Perfect in that dry desert heat.

    The wonderful macroons that came in this elegant little waxed paper bag.

    In fact I think the concept of “elegant” first came to me from these visits. I’ll always miss Will Wrights…..

  • Duke Banner says:

    We ate at the one at Eastland Shopping Center in West Covina, and ordered burgers which took forever with one waiter and maybe one cook. We took out cards and started playing to pass the time, but were told we couldn’t.

    Most interesting was the entertainment, which was a slide projector/16MM film projector and music all in one. Every 10 or so minutes, either a slide or a movie clip would start, featuring Will Wright.

    I think we went through 2 playings of One Is The Loneliest Number by 3 Dog Night before we saw anything resembling food.

  • Nick Jaffe says:

    There was one on the PC Highway (Hwy 1) just north of Newport. The Swiss Chocolate Sundae was my favorite. The whip cream was blended with chocolate.

  • Andy says:

    Lived around the corner from the one in Bev Hills as a teenager, didn’t go that often though. I always wondered if the ice cream parlor Wil Wright was the same Will Wright the character actor (you’d recognize him in a heartbeat), but somehow I think not. But in this town you never know (unless someone here does know?), here’s his IMDB page http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0942926/

  • Rosanne Sachson says:

    My fathers haberdashery shop was first located on Vine Street north of Wil Wrights. When the Huntington Harford Theartre wanted to take over the property Bernard’s Luggage moved across the street & we …. Sachson’s Haberdashery moved one block south to the old Wil Wright’s shop on Vine Street …..closer to Wallace Music City across from the studio.
    I still have the little glass coffee creamer containers. Great café tables & chairs in stripped fabric!

  • Rosanne Sachson says:

    ooops I forgot to add the years…1951-1956
    Thanks for the site…fun memories!

  • Joanna Smith says:

    After dances, the one on Sunset in the Palisades was the destination. OMG! I miss those macaroons…. my own ‘signature’ ice cream dish was peppermint ice cream with hot fudge… have tried it other places and at home with all kinds of brands but NONE, absolutely none was as good as Wil Wrights.

  • Paula Doss says:

    My parents used to take my brother and I to the one on PCH in Newport Beach – I can’t remember what I ordered although I do remember it was in a shake glass and frothy! I was pretty little and remember sitting in those wire backed chairs and wanting to kneel on them because my glass of whatever was so tall. I especially loved the little almond cookies or macaroons as someone else called them. Memories….Good ones!

  • Mark Sherwin says:

    We went to the Pacific Palisades location and Westwood (in that brick building on the corner). What a wonderful place. All the unusual candies in jars on the counter, and the best ice cream on the planet. First time I ever saw vanilla bean. The hot fudge sundae was small and had a little pewter container of real hot fudge, with a little macaroon on the side. We still talk about it. One of my favorite memories of the 60s.

  • Syvia, Lady Dhenin says:

    I grew up having Wil Wright’s ice cream. The 4 locations were Vine south of Hollywood Blvd., Westwood, Beverly Hills and the Sunset Strip. The ice cream was very rich, but also strongly flavoured. Some of the flavours were coffee,
    chocolate burnt almond, peppermint and once for a little while they made one which was vanilla with the fruits and liquors of a rich fruit cake. Nowhere in the world is there, in my opinion, an ice cream to compare. It was started by an out of work silent actor.

  • Syvia, Lady Dhenin says:

    My comments are above. If you wish me to add to it, I can remember when there was only one Wil Wright’s and that was the one on Vine.

  • april says:

    I remember the one on Santa Monica and Harper. Even as a kid I loved the Chocolate Mocha, it was Chocolate ice cream with coffee including find grounds in the mix. I’ve never had anything like it. McConnell’s makes a Turkish Coffee that includes the fine grounds but the Chocolate is missing. And those Macaroons were to die for. Fredirico’s Bakery in Pasadena used to make something close but I’ve heard they’ve gone downhill.

  • dan says:

    The ice cream was so rich, cream would stick to the roof of my mouth. McConnels was the next best thing back then.

  • dan says:

    Don’t forget La Barbera’s pizza, best pizza I ever had.

  • Marsha says:

    I remember my dad bringing me to the Wil Wright’s parlor in Westwood back in the mid 40’s. It was so exciting for me at that age of about 6. I would always order the rich chocolate ice cream with marshmallo topping. Loved it. Sure wish they were still around. What a nice memory.

  • Gary says:

    I worked at the Charlieville location back in the late 1960s. My sister worked there in the early 60s, her name was Janet, and she often worked with another gifted waitperson named Else. There was a woman who did all the hiring for Mr Wright, I think her name was Ms. Hildebrand, or Hillenbrand. The tips were great for wait staff, especially on the weekends – the Beverly Hills store was always packed on Friday and Saturday nights + lots of celebrities.

  • Alan Barton says:

    I worked at the parlor on Ventura Blvd. and Sepulveda in Van Nuys in 1957 for the summer before I went back to Cal in Berkeley. My favorite ice cream flavor was chocolate burnt almond. As a soda jerk (we preferred to be called fountain attendants) I was entitled to one treat a shift, but we used to nibble on toasted almonds and cocanut macaroons all evening. Those were the days.

  • Jo Ann S. says:

    I worked there when I was 16. My mom loved the ice cream sodas And I loved the hot fudge sundaes! And those little macaroons packed in the parchment paper! Yum.

  • Katie says:

    I worked at the Beverly Hills store in the late 60’s also. Yes, I remember Janet and Else who was English. She and I remained very close friends until she died many years ago. If I could invent a time machine it would take me back to those days. There never has been another ice cream like Mr. Wright’s. I remember a man named Ivy who made the ice cream at the Santa Monica Blvd store and I loved going in to tour the factory. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Wright many times, going to his house in Nichols Canyon. It broke everyone’s heart when he sold his stores; they were doomed to fail because no one cared about it like he did. Even sadder is when Mr. Wright was murdered in his home and no one was every caught. I am happy to say that at this moment, one of those beautiful marble ice cream tables and two wrought iron chairs with their original covers are by my pool. Else and I managed to score those and one of the heavy steel ice cream can. I had a lot of the memorabilia which I eventually sold. Every time I eat ice cream today, I remember that 33% butterfat in WWs ice cream. To hell with the diets today. THAT was living….and we all lived.

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