Every day should start with coffee and end with ice cream. That’s the quote that you will read at Nana and Papa’s Place, a charming little coffee and ice cream shop in downtown Onalaska owned by Larry and Wanda Meade.
As I met with Larry, Wanda and their daughter Amy Brooks, I felt nothing but kindness and hospitality. They have always been open to the community, caring for others in one way or another. Larry has had many professions in helping others, including as a pastor and counselor. Both he and Wanda helped in the founding of the Onalaska Youth Group and are still actively serving on the board.
They are the kind of people who will always lend a helping hand to anyone in need. Even though they have always served others, I couldn’t help but wonder how they got started on this journey. Why start an espresso and ice cream shop? The answer is simple—joy.
It started with an espresso machine.
“It was Larry’s idea,” Wanda says. “He bought an espresso machine from his sister who had a shop in town, and thought this is something we can do together.”
With that machine, they started with an espresso stand, while renovating Larry’s mother and father’s home for Nana and Papa’s Place. They became quite popular with the espresso stand. Their most popular drinks are their white chocolate mocha and Snickers. Next came the ice cream, including more than a dozen choices of Umpqua and Schopes brand ice cream flavors. The favored flavor among children seems to be the cotton candy, and mountain blackberry and huckleberry cheesecake—with real cheesecake chunks might I add—are very popular among the adult crowds.
They even have rare flavors, like licorice ice cream that will turn your whole mouth green when you eat it. They were very kind to let me try multiple kinds of ice cream. I couldn’t just choose one. The chocolate peanut butter ice cream actually had small peanuts in it, and tasted just like a Reese’s candy bar. The blueberry cheesecake has a whole pie in the tub of ice cream!
About why they decided to add ice cream, Wanda replies, “Seeing the sparkle in the children’s eyes when they see all the different kinds of ice cream. Their eyes get bigger than their stomachs.”
For Larry, this journey brings happiness. “We’ve seen so much tragedy in people’s lives. Fifteen, twenty years of that, we just wanted to be on the happy side instead of the bad side,” he says. They also just love to visit with others. “Wanda has a heart of hospitality,” says Larry.
Nana and Papa’s Place is that home away from home, the place where you have “refrigerator rights” as Larry calls it. It’s full of love, laughter, friends and comfort. They welcome everyone with open arms, conversation and sweet treats. I guarantee you, you will find something on the menu that you will like. Amy explains that recently they have added what is called an “affogato,” which is a scoop of ice cream with a shot of espresso on top.
They really have thought of everything, and they’re still not done. They are planning to add sandwiches to the menu and are continuing to renovate the rest of the building. They are creating a space for teens and college students to study, read or just hang out. There is also an adorable seating area right outside that is open to all customers.
After spending some time with Larry, Wanda and Amy, I found that they have known my family longer then I have. That’s to be expected in a small community such as ours, and with that small town charm comes great friendship. I take comfort in knowing that when I walk into Nana and Papa’s Place I will not only be supporting a local business, but I will be remembered. I could drop in just to visit, and as Wanda explained to me that’s what she loves. Having friends stop in to chat a bit or have a cup of coffee together. Friendship, love, and support all these things hold our community together.
I asked one final question to Larry, Wanda and Amy. “What do you want the community to know about your place?”
They all said, “We are here, come on in.” Whether you need something sweet to eat or if you just need a place to hang out and have a few laughs Nana and Papa’s Place is the place to be.
Nana and Papa’s Place
1752 State Highway 508