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J.P. Licks owner on 40 years in business, his love of Cambodia, and memories of the Jersey coast

We caught up with Vincent Petryk to talk about all things travel

Vincent Petryk and his wife, Anita Ivarson, at their Buddhist wedding ceremony in Cambodia in 2019.
Vincent Petryk and his wife, Anita Ivarson, at their Buddhist wedding ceremony in Cambodia in 2019.Handout

Vincent Petryk, founder and owner of J.P. Licks, loves everything about Cambodia — so much so that he and his fiancee decided to get married there in 2019 in a Buddhist ceremony. “It’s the people, the culture … people across the board were very kind and smiled easily. We didn’t speak the language and most people didn’t speak English, but we were able to communicate. It was all through the eyes,” he said. “In some ways, Cambodia — when you get out of the cities and into the towns and villages — is almost medieval with the artisans [and] craftspeople.” Petryk said the couple took an eight-day cruise (on Avalon Waterways) on the Mekong River that started in Cambodia and ended in Vietnam — a country he’d like to go back to and explore. In the meantime, he is celebrating the 40th anniversary of J.P. Licks, which started with one ice cream shop in Jamaica Plain and now has 17 locations throughout Massachusetts. “Our longevity is a testimony to loyalty of customers, because before there was social media there was only word of mouth and people from JP used to drag in their friends from Newton and Brookline to go into ‘dangerous’ JP to get ice cream,” said the Philadelphia native, adding that he prides himself on “evolving with the times and [customers’] changed tastes.” That includes adding more vegan/dairy-free ice cream options and a new ice cream cake made with ice cream and traditional cake. “Getting a cake to taste good when it’s frozen is more difficult than you would think,” he quipped. Petryk lives in Jamaica Plain with his wife, Anita Ivarson, a high school teacher in the Boston Public Schools, their three rescue dogs, Dudley, Tessoro, and Alfie, and their rescued yellow bellied slider turtle, Timothy. They have four children between them. We caught up with Petryk to talk about all things travel.

Favorite vacation destination?


Cambodia . . . the people, food, and scenery.

Favorite food or drink while vacationing?


Street food almost everywhere.

Where would you like to travel to but haven’t?

Cuba, due to the government travel restrictions.

One item you can’t leave home without when traveling?

My running shoes.

Aisle or window?

Aisle. I get claustrophobic in the middle or window seat.

Favorite childhood travel memory?

The ocean and boardwalk every night in Wildwood, N.J. My dad’s factory closed every year for the first two weeks in August, so I went there for 18 consecutive summers.

Guilty pleasure when traveling?

Drinking to excess because I rarely drink at home.

Best travel tip?

Walk! The best way to experience a foreign locale — be it city or countryside — is by foot.