by DAVE SCHWAB
Lighthouse Ice Cream has been a beacon drawing locals and visitors alike to Ocean Beach for treats for more than 20 years.
June 10 was an important date for Lighthouse owner Carol Ladiges, as it was the 24th anniversary of when she and her late husband, Dick, started their business together in 1997.
How did the couple meet?
Over ice cream of course.
“I came out here on vacation from Denver in 1982 and I had to have an ice cream, even though I was working at a nutrition place and we weren’t allowed to have ice cream,” recalled Carol. “I walked in, and, a year later, I married the owner. It was kind of funny how it all happened.”
Dick was the original owner of the OB Big Olaf’s in October of 1982.
Dick sold Big Olaf’s in 1984 and he and Carol moved to southern Spain and completed an 18,000-mile bike tour through eight countries. Returning to Ocean Beach in 1997, they opened Lighthouse Ice Cream.
Steps from the beach, Lighthouse Ice Cream is a family-owned business serving award-winning ice cream. It is known for its exceptional service and high-quality products. The dessert shop’s most noteworthy treat is its hot waffle ice cream sandwich. It also carries a wide variety of other desserts including milkshakes, malts, sundaes, banana splits, and floats.
“Twenty-four years ago we were half of Gary’s Deli, then they sold the other half to South Beach, and we named our business Lighthouse after a church group we went to,” said Carol. “We felt like it was kind of a gift from God because we hadn’t planned on going into the ice-cream business.”
Though the ice cream business was sweet, Carol said it took a long time before she and Dick were able to collect much cream. “It was tough getting started,” she noted. “It took us about 10 years to make a profit we could live on. People think you’re opening up a business and going to make all this money. But it takes about 2 ½ to three years before you see anything coming in. My husband was retired military, so we had that income.”
Noting Dick was a sharp businessman who “taught her everything,” Carol learned from him it’s best to focus on and master the basics, while others come and go experimenting.
“When we opened there were only two ice cream shops in all of San Diego,” Ladiges said. “Then there were yogurt shops on every corner, then ice cream started popping up in a lot of the businesses in OB, and all of those were fads and went away.”
There are a couple of advantages to dealing in ice cream.
“It’s inflation-proof and depression-proof,” Carol said. “With old-fashioned ice cream, you don’t need any gimmicks. You don’t need ambrosia and orchid and all these crazy flavors. I’ll just stick with mint chip and rocky road. I don’t need all that fluff.”
Of her business strategy, Carol said: “I wanted an ice cream you couldn’t get anyplace else. People love our ice cream. They can’t buy it in any store. That’s what we wanted.”
Lighthouse does have seasonal ice cream flavors though.
“In the summertime, we have huckleberry from Oregon where they grow it,” Carol said. “We also have beachcomber in summer that people wait all year for. I have people coming in asking for pumpkin. I say, ‘Not until October.’”
Carol said her busiest times are Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons. She noted July coming up is also National Ice Cream Month.
Is an ice cream shop a pleasant place to work?
“It’s fun,” answered Carol Ladiges. “People are happy.”
Lighthouse Ice Cream
Where: 5059 Newport Ave.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.