The staff of Handel’s in Santa Monica, along with Mayor Pro Tem Lana Negrete, joined sweet treat fans from across the area during the Aug. 24 grand opening. Credit: Thomas Leffler

The sweetest addition to Santa Monica is a treat for all ages, one that a lucky few will make long-lasting.

Handel’s homemade ice cream expanded its fast-growing footprint by adding a location along Ocean Park Boulevard, run by Peg Hale and her partner Rob. To celebrate the confectionery, the Aug. 24 grand opening saw the first 50 customers in line receive a deal for one free ice cream cone per week for the next year, an opening attended by well over double that mark.

With its 48 unique flavors of ice cream, Hale was quick to realize what others told her about Handel’s quality.

“It’s almost an obsession with people,” Hale said. “And when I tasted [it], I’m like, wait, I know why. It’s delicious. And there’s a lot of really great flavors.”

Both herself and her husband were looking for other business plans during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the commercial real estate market they worked in was faced with uncertainty. During the brainstorm, Rob noticed that Handel’s Redondo Beach location “always” had a line outside. Long before they took in their own massive line of ice cream lovers at the grand opening, Peg looked in to the Handel’s business model and was immediately impressed.

“When I asked a question just as Joe Schmoe on the website, I got an answer to all my questions quickly,” she said. “They care about their customers. They listen.”

Listening eventually turned to action, as Handel’s sent the couple to “ice cream boot camp” in May, with the two learning the tricks of the treat at the company’s fourth-ever location in Canfield, Ohio.

The experience was a callback to Handel’s humble beginnings in Youngstown, Ohio, when Alice Handel started a shop out of the window of her husband’s gas station in 1945.

Fast-forward to 2023, and the couple learned a wide variety of skills, both in business and product creation.

“We learned everything … how to close the store, how to store the cash, how to make ice cream,” Peg said. “Our first day of making ice cream, Rob and I made 55 gallons.”

Pushing that total to 500 gallons of ice cream per day to sustain the business, Hale credits the Handel’s team for creating a “cooperative, friendly, loving” environment during the start-up process. The team gave back by sending representatives from Ohio to Santa Monica to aid in starting up the new location, a collaborative effort that required some sweat equity.

“We’ve been in here working day and night for weeks, literally,” Hale said. “No days off for three weeks, and a couple of crazy nights. I [told] Rob, it’s 2:30 [a.m.] and we’re taking out the recycling.”

With Handel’s carrying 150 flavors overall, the Santa Monica location settled on 48 concoctions, 20 that come equipped in every Handel’s shop and 28 that were chosen based on area demographics. Hale was proud of the chocolate pecan flavor in particular, a rarity in Santa Monica, especially adding whole halves of pecans roasted and salted, rather than crumbling them up into the cone.

Another point of pride for Hale was Handel’s food quality, both in including vegan options on the menu and not having any hormones in the dairy products.

“There’s things I care about with foods and they met my mark,” she said.

Along with ice cream cones, Handel’s menu includes specialty sundaes, milkshakes, malts and “hurricanes” that combine ice cream with famous candies. For customer’s furry friends, the shop also includes a “frosty paw” option for dogs. The shop is located at 1701 Ocean Park Boulevard. Visit more information.

Thomas Leffler has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism from Penn State University and has been in the industry since 2015. Prior to working at SMDP, he was a writer for AccuWeather and managed...