The history of Leopold’s: A legacy built by ice cream

An old photo of the original Leopold's storefront.
An old photo of the original Leopold's storefront.(source: Leopold's Ice Cream)
Updated: Jan. 29, 2020 at 10:55 AM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) -When it comes to ice cream in Savannah, the question isn’t where the best spot for a cold treat is-it’s always “how long is the line at Leopold’s?”

It’s never surprising to find a line coming out of the door and wrapping around the block. But how did the store grow to be so popular? Morning Break’s Brian Byers went straight to the man in charge to learn more about the legacy built by ice cream.

“When my dad came here as a youngster, he and my Uncle George who is[sic] sort of a surrogate father to him...they initially went to Brazil, Indiana where they had a relative there," said Stratton Leopold. Leopold now leads the store now as the senior ice cream scooper. "The relative was in the candy and ice cream business and that’s where they fell in love with this business. My dad, when he first came back from the first world war, they wanted to open an ice cream business. And they found a business on the corner of Gwinnett and Habersham. Through research, I found they didn’t buy the building initially. They bought the business in 1919. They then opened the business and started making ice cream, small amounts at first and after a few years saved money to buy the building and continue. We lived upstairs over the store, that’s where I grew up.”

That’s right! The original Leopold’s first found its home on the corner of Gwinnett and Habersham Streets.

“Yes, that’s where we lived,” said Leopold. “So I had access to ice cream, starting as an infant practically.”

“Savannah was in a growing phase as well. Leopold’s became “THE” place during the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. It was the place that you went. We had curb service, literal curb service where the car would stop and flash its lights and a curb boy, initially, would run outside and take your order with the little clip-on trays. It became curb girls after 1941 when the war broke out. Because the draft took all the boys into the military, so it became curb girls then. But it was literally curb service then. Which I’d love to do now, but it’s impossible with the traffic here and all.”

The Leopold’s grew the family business. The ice cream hasn’t changed in recipe or taste in the past century. For Leopold, the best parts of his family’s business are the memories he’s made and the traditions he’s kept.

“...For a kid, it was Disneyland,” he said. “It was great. It was just a wonderful, wonderful idyllic time, that I try to have it here. I try to harken back to it somewhat and I think people generally thirst for it too. Thirst for what used to be in reality or perception, its something that we try to provide an experience here that is comforting because it was a very comfortable time in a sense.”

Leopold continued, saying “And goodness…I think now, what has happened to the business. The way we’ve expanded, what he’d think.”

“What might he think?” Byers asked.

“I don’t know!” Leopold said, laughing. “He’d probably just shake his head.”

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