There really is only one place to get homemade ice cream on the peninsula, the most famous ice cream parlor on the Wharf. Port Washington’s residents know it is the beginning of warm weather fun when Douglas & James opens. The place is like the magical confectionery store brought to life by Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory with not just homemade ice cream, but so much more.
Douglas Shepardson, owner of Sweet Treats on the Wharf, received a master’s degree in accounting at LIU Post, but wasn’t too sure he wanted to be an accountant for the rest of his life. “Ice cream or a boring job,” Shepardson said. Shepardson’s wife’s father, Malcolm Tillim, was the owner and creator of Inspiration Wharf, which is a building complex located on the harbor front. The family discussed the perfect business to open there and chose an ice cream parlor.
The ice cream shop opened in May 1994, one week before Harborfest, an annual festival in Port Washington that has handmade crafts, a food court and musical entertainment for all to enjoy. During the first week the shop was open, the ice cream was free.
Douglas & James’ ice cream isn’t your typical frozen treat, but is made the old-fashioned way, one tub at a time. The super premium ice cream is made every day on site. “Chunk Doughboy Delight, Coffee Toffee, Wild Maine Blueberry and the list goes on including more than 50 flavors, but not all at one time,” Shepardson said.
During the winter months, Douglas & James closes because business simply dies. When the weather starts becoming nice again, the staff starts the process of getting ready to reopen. The shop starts the season with limited hours and increases them as the weather gets better. “We have a funny sign clearly specifying our lack of concrete hours in the front window. It’s funny, though it annoys some people,” Shepardson said.
New for this season, Shepardson plans to have a few surprises and vegan ice cream, which is made with all dairy-free products. “You’ll just have to come in to find out. Free samples are always available,” Shepardson said. Shepardson plans to have at least 10 student employees to assist all ice cream lovers.
Shepardson is sure to make flavors that he knows everyone will enjoy. Having made more than 50 flavors, but not having them all out at once, customers have more of a variety to choose from. Shepardson eats it all, but brownie, cookies and cream, and pralines and cream are some of his personal favorites.
Jennifer Shepardson, daughter of the owner who also helps her father make the ice cream in the shop, said, “I am so proud of my father. Owning a successful business can be very stressful and time consuming. My father absolutely loves what he does, but more importantly he loves his customers and his employees.”
She continued, “He wants everyone to walk out of there with a smile on their face and will take his time with each customer to really get to know them. No matter how busy he is or how many tubs of ice cream he is in the middle of making, he will drop everything immediately to speak to our customers. I am so proud to say my father is the owner and creator of Douglas & James Ice Cream at Sweet Treats on The Wharf!”
Shepardson believes all customers, both adults and children that come into his shop, are his best customers. “When you’re eating ice cream, everyone is a kid,” he said.
As for the future of Douglas & James, Shepardson hopes that his children will one day take over the business and make it their own. “I would love to continue the tradition,” Shepardson said.
—Elizabeth Johnson contributed to the story