Places of La Crosse: the Pearl Ice Cream Parlor


Photo Taken By Henry Anderson

Henry Anderson, Photojournalist

The summer is a part of the year that is filled with time to do activities outside without having to worry about putting on an extra layer of clothing. Going swimming, taking hikes, hanging out with friends; all these things can be done outside. Additionally, with most students being off school during this time, it allots even more time to do summertime activities.

However, warmer weather tends to be a double-edged sword. While it’s warm outside, it is easy to spend a large amount of time in the heat and eventually overheat. So, in order to cool down, something people often do to combat the warm weather is to eat ice cream. Ice cream can be eaten and enjoyed in numerous ways; from eating it out of a dish or a cone or buying it from a big store or a local shop. This leads to not only ice cream being a sought-after item during the summer, but local ice cream shops become a place to hang out and cool down.

A place here in La Crosse that has provided ice cream and a place to be on some of its hottest summer days is The Pearl. Located in downtown La Crosse, named after the street in which it is located, The Pearl is a shop founded by TJ and Michelle Peterslie in 1993. Along with TJ and Michelle, The Pearl is managed by two Peterslie sisters, Dani and Azia.

“I am the current floor manager… I handle all of the hiring, scheduling, donations and custom orders. My sister, Azia, does all the bookkeeping, ordering products, and management of ice cream catered events,” describes Dani Peterslie. Dani, a 2011 graduate of UWL with a degree in communication studies, has worked at The Pearl for 11 years as the manager.

All the ice cream that is made at The Pearl is made in house, as Dani describes: “We make all of our own ice cream in-house, with the exception of the non-sugar option and Rainbow Sherbet. Most of the recipes we use today were created by my grandpa Oscar who insisted The Pearl make their own ice cream versus buy it from someplace else.” Oscar persisted in having The Pearl make its own ice cream based on the sign out front that said, “Homemade Ice Cream.”

The Pearl is known for more than just making ice cream. Along with having their own homemade ice cream, Dani says, “[The Pearl] has committed to making our own waffle cones, chocolates and most recently, our own fudge.” Along with making and selling their own ice cream, chocolates and fudge, The Pearl sells other candies made by other companies, and sells coffee and other drinks at the coffeehouse next door.

With all these different business to work, run and operate, it is still an enjoyable place to work, even though the past tough couple of years with the COVID pandemic. “Covid definitely threw us for a loop. We shut the doors abruptly with all other small businesses in our community in March 2020.  We slowly began trying new things during the pandemic, including a curbside service spring 2020 where we ran out treats to cars and which eventually turned into an ice cream walk-up window during summer 2020, where customers could not enter The Pearl,” says Dani. She continues by saying, “We are very grateful to be past that point now,”

Dani describes working there as, “a very sweet family business to be a part of.” This feeling carries over onto other employees at The Pearl. Avery Rox, an education student at UWL who helps package the candy and helps make some of the ice cream, is one of those employees. “I have been here for almost two years,” says Rox. When asked why she wanted to work at The Pearl, Rox said, “My sister worked for the Peterslie family first and she explained how they are a really great family to work for, which is true, they are a really great family to work for.”

The Pearl strives to bring a positive environment to the downtown area. As Dani puts it, “To me, The Pearl represents a place where a lot of memories are made for people. Whether it’s a couple’s first date spot that ends up getting married years down the road, or some high schoolers first job that they can reflect back upon.” She continues by saying, “We strive to create an atmosphere that is fun, unique, and where anyone can enjoy a present moment in time with a homemade treat and a smile.”

The Pearl is located in downtown La Crosse at 205 and 207 Pearl St. Even though the summer is coming to a close, it is never too late to grab some sweets. They are open every day with hours ranging from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and 10 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Keep an eye out for The Pearl’s float at the Maple Leaf Parade during Oktoberfest, as Dani says, “We give away everyone’s favorite candy, Tootsie Frooties. It’s a really fun time and the energy is always a little wild and positive!”