J’s Ice Cream in Redding Scoops Up Creamy Deliciousness
By Richard DuPertuis
Story and Photos by Richard DuPertuis
Jasvir Kaur fondly remembers summer evening walks through town in her homeland of India. Many years ago, as the day’s heat began to fade, she and her family would stroll Jalandhar, sometimes to an ice cream parlor and then off to see a movie, or sometimes just to the parlor to grab an ice cream cone. Ice cream, she recalls, made her happy.
Today, Kaur—who calls herself Jessie—strives to serve that happiness to every customer who visits her own ice cream parlor, J’s Ice Cream, in Redding. “I wanted to make it a traditional,
old-fashioned ice cream store,” she says of the tiny storefront that used to house Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors a few years ago. “Like going back in time.”
The brightly decorated shop draws a steady line of customers, some of whom know what they want when they come in the door. “A butter pecan milkshake,” says Redding resident Laura Escalon, a regular since 2014. “She sees me walk in and she’s already making it for me.”
It’s a black walnut chocolate sundae for Art Shoffner. “He wanted ice cream so bad, and we have nothing like this in Palo Cedro,” says wife Carmen. The couple is treating a family member, Fred Zapata, who decides on a banana split.
Kaur says there’s no other place in Redding to get a real banana split. “Others have that soft stuff, not real ice cream,” she explains. “There’s no other ice cream parlor like this in Redding.”
That’s because, in addition to its child’s-birthday-party decor and its sweet smell of yesteryear, J’s Ice Cream Parlor serves a confection no other local shop can offer: Gunther’s ice cream, trucked in fresh from Sacramento. Gunther’s ice cream has been produced in the state capital city for generations, and J’s is the only shop in Shasta County they service, according to Brad Realmuto, wholesale manager for the company.
It’s working out. “She’s smart, the way she runs her business – pretty savvy,” Realmuto says.
She’s pretty sturdy, too, normally climbing out of bed at 6 am to fix breakfast for her two teenagers. Sometimes, after they’re off to school, she has time for a nap, before her daily regimen of exercise, yoga or calisthenics. Then she heads for the shop.
She routinely works an 11-hour day, then it’s home to catch up on housework. Up again at 6 am, seven days a week, for about four years now, and still she greets every customer with a smile.
“Since day one, I’ve been challenged to pour my blood, sweat and tears into making the store successful,” Kaur says. “I wanted to be financially successful. That’s my personality.”
That personality showed soon after she immigrated, following her husband to the United States in the early 1990s. While naturalizing to become an American citizen, she found work as hostess in a Bay Area restaurant, while pursuing an associate degree in computer administration at Skyline Community College in San Bruno.
“I was a full-time student, and a mother, and working at night at a restaurant,” she says. “I moved to Redding a few years ago after falling in love with the lovely scenery here.”
She bought the franchise at 31 Flavors in 2010. When Baskin-Robbins pulled out a few years later, she kept serving ice cream as she launched J’s, a task that added considerably to her daily workload.
“I picked out all the colors and decorations myself,” she said, pointing to the bright pink walls emblazoned with giant ice cream cones. “When we were painting, I slept in my car for three days to let the painters in.”
Jessie says she chose ice cream for her livelihood “because ice cream makes people happy.”
Occasionally, that happiness ripples out further than she can see. Regular customer Jerry Nelson Stuart is the artist who crafted the fish that adorn the new Antlers Bridge at Lakehead. He buys Gunther’s from J’s by the quart, and he shares these quarts with clients.
“I do commissions – portraits, murals – and it’s more than just painting; I get to know these people.” He says whenever he knows that one of them is ailing, or just in a down mood, he shows up on the job with Gunther’s.
“When someone needs a little cheering up, there nothing like ice cream,” he says. “I’ve never seen anyone cry while eating ice cream – it makes people smile. It’s like joy. It’s like happiness.”
J's Ice Cream Parlor
Open noon to 9 pm, seven days a week
2919 Churn Creek Road, Redding