Many of you already know Alan Issokson, my husband, and the owner of H. Levenbaum Insurance at 1534 Dorchester Ave. When the space where Chill On Park is now located became available, Alan had a vision: a coffee and ice cream shop as a local neighborhood spot. He was so passionate about it, and I thought, “Why not us?” We should open a great ice cream and coffee shop!
We talked about the limited opportunities that exist today for teens in the inner city, and our memories as kids growing up hanging out at the local ice cream shop. The two of us spent a lot of time brainstorming about the perfect ice cream and coffee shop. We wanted to create a place where everyone would be welcome, local kids could be employed, the food would be locally-made and top quality, and everyone could come together for conversation and neighborhood events.
Once we decided that we were all in, it took about a year to secure the proper permits and to build-out the shop. I worked with local designers to get the name and feel of the shop “just right.” I researched different ice cream, coffee and tea companies, choosing them by their taste as well as by their own stories. I chose to showcase pastries from Haley House, which is a wonderful organization whose mission I support.
A little about us… owning and managing an ice cream shop is a new adventure for us. It is very, very important to me that kids have a chance to work in their neighborhoods, and learn all about responsibility, teamwork, and shared goals. I have a Master’s Degree in Sociology, which would typically not sound like a fit for someone managing an ice cream shop. However, all of my experience — with my own children and with the individuals and families I have worked with through the years — points to the importance of kids having opportunities to grow, learn, and thrive. What better place to do that than at an ice cream shop? I am just delighted with the wonderful, amazing kids we have working here. I love seeing them come into work with loads of energy and huge smiles on their faces; they teach me something every day.
For years, Alan has worked closely with the Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester, The Louis D. Brown Peace Institute and College Bound Dorchester. Since his grandfather opened H. Levenbaum Insurance in 1923, Alan’s family has had strong roots in the Dorchester community—Alan started working there when he was seven years old. Chill On Park is the perfect opportunity for us to give the neighborhood kids in these programs an opportunity very few inner city kids get: an after-school or summer job scooping ice cream. Many of the young people employed in the shop today came to us through these amazing organizations and we appreciate their friendships.
I hope you will visit us soon and try our ice cream, coffee, tea, and bagels. Being New Englanders, every season is ice coffee and ice cream season… so please, be sure to come by 142 Park Street and say, “Hello!”