A peek into J.P Licks on its 40th anniversary

J.P. Licks, an ice cream cafe located in Davis Square, celebrates its 40th anniversary. Sophie Dolan / The Tufts Daily
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The bell chimes as you walk in, and you’re immediately struck by the jovial atmosphere. Upbeat music and the inviting glow of the freezers draw you to the counter. Perhaps you go for a perfected classic, like cookies and cream, or a seasonal offering, like pumpkin cheesecake. You might even skip on the sweets and get some house-roasted coffee. The friendly atmosphere shines through the laid-back blackboard-style menu and funky hanging lights.  

You are at J.P. Licks, a Boston-based chain that is known for its homemade ice cream and other treats. The location closest to Tufts sits right in Davis Square. No matter the time of year, you can always see a line of students. This year, J.P. Licks is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

In honor of its anniversary, the chain released two new flavors: Midnight Munchies and Red Bull Strawberry Lime Sorbet. J.P. Licks Production Manager Beth Otis explained the concepts behind the “crazy” new flavors.

Midnight Munchies has a peanut butter ice cream base loaded with Kit Kats, chocolate covered pretzels and Cool Ranch potato chips.

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“I was thinking about the Midnight Munchies because we all have those cravings at night, and that’s when it gets a little wacky, right?” Otis said. “That’s when you’re dipping chips into peanut butter and Cheez Whiz and queso sauce and who knows, whatever you can find in the cabinet.”

The genesis of a J.P. Licks flavor varies — sometimes it emerges from a late-night snack or just a popular drink. The second flavor, Red Bull Strawberry Lime Sorbet, is based off employees’ favorite drink, Red Bull, according to Otis.

Creating new flavors is no simple task; there is a selection process.  

“Once we come up with the idea, we’ll make a flavor. Sometimes we’ll remake it three, four, five times, and if we all try it and it doesn’t excite us, then it’s just tossed aside,” Otis said.

In light of its anniversary, J.P. Licks is also featuring a flavor from the past for every month of 2021, in addition to its regular range of both traditional and wild flavors.  

It is not just the flavors that keep people coming back to the ice cream shop year after year;it is also the environment. Otis explained her gratitude for student workers at J.P. Licks. 

“We take on a lot of the personalities of the students, and I think that’s one reason why our stores have been successful — because [our staff includes] such a wide range of personalities. People from all over the world have worked with us, and those personalities come through,” Otis said. 

AT Trejo, a junior at Tufts and supervisor at the J.P. Licks in Davis Square, fondly remembers the great vibes of the store that led them to apply for a job there only a month into their first semester at Tufts.

“I knew I wanted to work, but I didn’t want to be stuck or be too comfortable in the bubble that is Tufts, because I feel like it’s very easy to get swept up in that,” Trejo said. “[The job lets] me interact with the outside world but also get to know Somerville a little more [and] meet some of the locals.”  

Trejo explained that their community at J.P. Licks gives them more of a sense of purpose. 

“During COVID, it was so nice to have somewhere to go … see people and light up people’s faces every day, and I think that’s how I see ice cream now. It’s the literal cherry on top of someone’s day,” Trejo said. “[Over the summer], I’d often be like, ‘How’s your day going?’ and someone would say, ‘Not good, but this ice cream is making it a lot better.'”

As the winter months approach, some may be less interested in a cold treat. Otis disclosed that J.P. Licks’ business decreases by half to three-quarters in the winter months. But even if it may not be the best time for ice cream sales, it is still a valuable time to engage with customers. 

“Even though we are slower, we have our regular customers who come in and grab an ice cream or grab a cup of coffee, so we like to stay open during the winter. It may not necessarily always be the best decision business-wise, but we feel like we’re part of the community, so we don’t want to just be a seasonal store,” Otis said.

Changes in weather also entail a rotating seasonal ice cream selection at J.P. Licks. Trejo explained the shop’s monthly flavors.

“There’s an earl grey that tastes like lavender, delicious … and raspberry-lime rickeys, but with less syrup. [Those flavors] are always go-tos,” Trejo said. 

While ice cream may be the star of the show at J.P. Licks, the establishment also has all the adornments of a cafe.

“I think our coffee is actually underrated. It’s definitely a hard market to break into, especially because our ice cream had really gotten our footing,” Otis said.   

J.P. Licks has maintained its presence as a staple in the Boston community. As a local business, it values the ties it has to its neighborhoods, engaging in projects with the likes of Boston Rescue Mission and Italian Home for Children.

To many Tufts students, the Davis Square location has become the iconic ice cream spot, and the student workers have helped contribute to this reputation. 

Junior Michael Perik said that student workers help shape the ambiance at the J.P. Licks in Davis Square.

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