The Pearl was opened in 1993, aiming to bring a family-friendly staple to downtown La Crosse. Over the years it has evolved, and now The Pearl features a homemade ice cream parlor, confectionery and coffee house, all within Pearl Street West---- a historic walking mall.
The Pearl is most famous for our homemade ice cream and waffle cones, made in-house daily at our downtown La Crosse parlor. We use Wisconsin dairy, and make our ice creams in small batches, mixing in premium ingredients like fudge, caramel, nuts and cookies by hand. Many of the recipes we are famous for today were created by The Pearl's beloved soda jerk, the late Oscar Peterslie.
The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor & Confectionery is located in the Vincent Schwarz Building, built in 1874, and spanning 205-207-209 Pearl Street. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the oldest commercial buildings in the city of La Crosse. The music of Tommy Dorsey's band, to the blues of Billie Holiday fill our authentic 1940's Soda Fountain and Confectionery. Look no further for an authentic experience that will allow you to savor a piece of history-- and cure your sweet tooth!
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The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor
The Pearl Confectionery
The Pearl Coffee House
The Grand Hotel Ballroom
Oscar was a cheerful, enthusiastic, modest man and a key ingredient that made The Pearl a success. He has been recognized as “one of the nation’s authentic, old-time soda jerks” and named Wisconsin’s Outstanding Older Worker.
His son, TJ, and daughter-in-law, Michelle, opened The Pearl in 1993. In The Pearl’s second year, Oscar stopped by on a winter day and asked his son why The Pearl was closed. TJ told him,"Because it’s February, and this is Wisconsin.” Oscar replied, “You can’t make money if you are not open. Show me how to make a malt, and I will be in The Pearl just in case someone comes in.” It wasn’t long before he became the driving force behind the Pearl.
As sales increased, and a local shop could no longer supply enough ice cream, TJ started buying ice cream from a wholesaler. Oscar did not agree with that decision. Either they start making ice cream themselves or take down the sign in the front window that said, “Homemade Ice Cream.” So Oscar took a course on making ice cream at the University of Wisconsin and became a member of the National Yogurt and Ice Cream Association. After his success with making ice cream, Oscar knew it wouldn’t be difficult to make candy and now the shop has expanded into a Confectionery with homemade chocolates (using Oscar's original recipes) and homemade fudge. He was famous for his love food, toffee and peanut brittles, as well as turtles and caramel corn.
Born in 1921, Oscar enjoyed a great life. He had four children, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. He managed the A&P grocery store in La Crosse for 21 years. Then, he sold real estate for 17 years.
Oscar enjoyed gardening, biking, and woodworking. He has made many items from wood for The Pearl including shelves, long-handled spoons, wood bases for glass jars, and a rack to hold ice cream cones.
Oscar most enjoyed the people that come into The Pearl--as much as they enjoyed and many still remember him. Oscar observes, “Ice cream makes you smile. So everyone who comes in here leaves smiling.”
The Pearl family and community were sad to see Oscar go at 92 on Monday, March 17, 2014. The Pearl still opens everyday for him, we still make our ice cream homemade in our on-site kitchen, and thanks to him--The Pearl remains a special place in La Crosse and in the hearts of many.