Photo by Eric Miyasato
People come in and out of our life shaping who we are and how we live. Sometimes we don’t realize how much they truly influenced us until they leave. “I watched my Mom’s journey through struggle and success,” says Lee Wang, co-owner of Lucy’s Lab Creamery, a specialty ice cream shop located in Kakaʻako. “The values she instilled in me guide and shape my priorities and actions.”
Like myself, Lee was born in Japan and raised on the Mainland. He spent most of his life living in Colorado and Kansas, raised solely by his mother. “We struggled financially but my Mom was always giving,” remembers the University of Hawaiʻi alumni. They found themselves in Colorado because his grandparents needed help running the family restaurant. It was his Mom’s devotion to a church that brought them to a university town in Kansas. Then in 2000, during his senior year in high school, they moved to Honolulu to provide support for his aging grandmother.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in Speech Communications, he entered the teaching field but soon realized that it was not for him. Lee’s Mom encouraged him to become a realtor, like herself. He took her advice and it was a perfect fit. He is currently a real estate agent with Locations LLC, Hawaiʻi’s largest locally owned and operated real estate agency. “I’m lucky to work with such amazing and supportive people,” says Lee. “They’re like family to me.”
In 2007, Lee’s Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. “Shortly after her passing in 2012, I dedicated some time to myself and travelled along the Northwest. I needed a break,” explains Lee. During his visits to Seattle and San Francisco, he discovered small ice cream shops that served innovative flavors. Lee soon became passionate about ice cream and began experimenting on his own. He won a food contest at an annual work picnic with his homemade bacon whiskey ice cream. This inspired him to further this interest. Lee trained at local dairy and creamery farms in Wisconsin and returned to Hawaiʻi ready to open his own ice cream shop – Lucy’s Lab Creamery, dedicated in memory of his mother. A portion of the shop’s proceeds go to breast cancer research.
“Ice cream is fun and creative,” says Lee. “It’s an on-going learning experience. Sometimes flavors come out terrible and other times perfect. I love it.” Lee experiments and makes ice cream in a commercial kitchen located in Kalihi. He believes that you have to have good intentions when starting a business. Lee wants his product to create a positive impact within the community. When someone has a good experience, that person will want others to experience the same.
Currently, the shop offers eight flavors, ranging from Strawberry Moscato Sorbet to Fruit Loop Vodka. Flavors change monthly and the ice cream is sold by weight. The Pan De Crème makes me nostalgic because it reminds me of a favorite childhood treat. My Mom made ice cream sandwiches for my sister and I using pandesal (Filipino bread roll). The version at Lucy’s Lab provides you a choice of jam, glossed on the inside of a Hawaiian sweet roll accompanied with a scoop of ice cream. It’s then pressed like a panini so it must be eaten quickly!
Lee openly shared the lessons he learned during his first year of business: 1) delegate; 2) give creative reign to staff; and 3) surround yourself with good people. Lee’s grandmother is his biggest supporter. “She’s my cheerleader and matchmaker,” he said with a chuckle.
Lee plans to open a second location however no specific details are to be released yet. Lucy’s Lab Creamery is celebrating their one year anniversary this month by giving away free ice cream! Follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for details! Donations will be accepted during the event in which all will go to charity.