Lara Hammel '86
How do you go from a law degree to opening a famous Twin Cities Ice Cream Shop? Ask Lara Hammel. She is the co-owner of Izzy’s Ice Cream with her husband, Jeff Sommers. After college and law school, she and Jeff moved to Michigan, where she practiced law. While she was pregnant with their first child, they came back to Minnesota. She stayed home with their first daughter, Anda for two years. After their second daughter, Ora, turned one, she went back to work part-time as a law clerk for a judge in Hennepin County, while Jeff was a teacher. They started having discussions about owning their own business, and they separately wrote down all the business ideas that they had. When they compared ideas, ice cream shops were on both of their lists! After doing some research, thinking about it, and admiring other companies, they decided to go for it. At the time, they thought about buying and selling another company’s ice cream. They couldn’t find anyone to sell them their ice cream, so they learned how to make it themselves. Izzy’s was born.
Lara came to Minnehaha as a sophomore transfer, as she had moved from Wisconsin to St. Paul, just across the river from MA. “Everyone was so welcoming.” One of her most memorable moments was working with the yearbook teacher, Elaine Ekstedt. Elaine encouraged her, and Lara became the editor of the yearbook her senior year. The yearbook team helped her become a better writer, and as a result, she went to Hamline University and majored in English. “Mrs. Ekstedt believing in me and giving me that support was very important. All the writing I did for publications helped me write more effectively. I felt well prepared for college. And, I use those skills all the time in the business world.”
In The Beginning
When Izzy’s first started, Lara ended her time in the law office and worked full time at their St. Paul location. Jeff worked part time at Izzy’s, and part time as a teacher. They had two kids that were two and four years old. Jeff would teach all day, and Lara would work all day at Izzy’s. After work, Jeff would come to Izzy’s with the kids. The kids would wait in the car, and Lara and Jeff would switch places and Jeff would work at Izzy’s until close. “We did this for quite a while. I would scoop cones and make the ice cream simultaneously. We worked at it!” Lara says. Izzy’s took off and they got a lot of nice press. Today, Lara runs the business, working mostly on the behind the scenes details. Her husband is more of the ‘face’ of Izzy’s and interacts with the public. They have grown to two locations--downtown Minneapolis and Merriam Park in St. Paul. They are known for their signature Izzy’s Scoop, which is a small scoop of ice cream on top of each of their cones.
Why She Does It
What is the most rewarding part of Izzy’s? “Bringing people together. It’s about the customers, the families and the community. We can provide a space for others to come and gather. It is so diverse and so many socio-economic demographics come together. In the summer, when I see people on the street with our ice cream and they are happy and chatting and just being together--that is most rewarding for me,” Lara says.
You can now find Izzy’s in your local grocery store! They’ve started with nine flavors, including a new look with their packaging. They are also working on launching an online ordering platform this winter, where customers can order their ice cream and get it delivered to 48 states. Lara says, “We are starting in Minnesota and hoping to grow regionally and beyond. That’s exciting!”
To The Students
What advice would Lara give to current students? “We hire a lot of teenagers at Izzy’s, and it’s hard to see them struggle with doing so much, and so much pressure in today’s world. Try not to worry about what you are ‘supposed’ to do. It’s going to be OK. Take on things that give you joy, and that you are passionate about. Make the best of the friends and the opportunities that you have right now.”