How many ice cream parlors do you know that are decorated with memorabilia from a Hollywood film career? I’ve only encountered one, when I was attending the Savannah Film Festival the week before last: it’s Leopold’s, conveniently located next door to a 1940s movie theater now owned and operated by SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design), which puts on the festival.
Leopold’s dates back to 1919, when three Greek immigrant brothers (George, Peter and Basil Leopold) opened the original establishment and learned their trade. The great songwriter Johnny Mercer grew up just a block away and was a regular customer, visiting Leopold’s whenever he traveled back home in later years. The current proprietor is Peter’s youngest son Stratton.
Quoting the ice cream parlor’s website, “Though Stratton left Savannah to pursue his Hollywood dream, Leopold’s Ice Cream continued to be a Savannah tradition carried on by other members of the Leopold family. In the summer of 2004, Stratton and Mary officially opened the new Broughton Street location. They continue their legendary family business proudly using many fixtures from the original store including the black marble soda fountain, wooden back bar and telephone booth. Leopold’s Ice Cream is hand-crafted in historic downtown Savannah using the original, secret recipes and techniques handed down to Stratton by his father.
“The new location was designed by Academy Award-nominated designer Dan Lomino, who applied his Hollywood magic to create the wonderful store you see today. He used many of the original Leopold’s fixtures and incorporated props, posters, and signed photographs of actors Dan and Stratton have worked with over the years. Leopold’s is once again a fun, family-friendly ice cream parlor circa 1935!”
I enjoyed surveying the walls, which are decorated with one-sheets of movies Stratton has worked on, a showcase filled with props from Mission: Impossible 3, and a selection of electronic movie slates, not to mention an old Moviola and a Panavision Panaflex camera.
As a fan of vintage Americana and an ice-cream aficionado I can tell you that Leopold’s is worth going out of your way to visit. Be prepared to wait in line, as people gather every day of the week to get their ice-cream “fix.” I fell in love with their chocolate-chocolate chip flavor but I doubt you’ll be disappointed with anything you order.