Doughnut shop or ice cream shop ?

We always heard those stories about Russians lining up in the dead of winter to get ice cream. And aside from people lining up in the California winter, I’m not quite sure that sight has graced any U.S. ice creamery. So I always wondered, in the non-ice creamish season, could a shop serve something else to offset the downtime?

Recently I went on an awesome food tour of Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood. On the tour we visited both brand new food shops and restaurants. And we stopped in to places that had been there for years that many of us had never noticed.

Most shockingly, we heard about the dire straits facing Scream Sorbet, a local sorbet maker which painstakingly seeks out farm-direct nuts, fruit and herbs and which uses techniques to best capture the flavors and textures naturally. The company is at risk of going out of business. The challenges range from difficulties complying with local zoning and health department regulations, for installing a new kitchen, to having the right team member to wrangle those complex and day-to-day issues while continuing to churn out great sorbet.

Oh, and not enough money. Revenue during the winter had also been a problem. It’s interesting to see what ice creameries add complementary revenue streams the way Ghirardelli sells pricey souvenir chocolate alongside their pricey sundaes, and old tyme local favorite Fenton’s has a full menu along with their pricey ice cream. (Well it is! People pay for their comfort foods and buzzing ambiance.)

The company has a fan base.

Its retail shop is located in a very popular area.

The real challenge here is having enough partners to tackle the administrivia while the business is running — such as putting the word out much much earlier that the company was having problems. There are carts and horses. Founder Nate Kurz is jumping between them, as he explained on this Chowhound thread. Will a white chocolate knight come to save the company while living out his (or her) cream to grow a sustainable Bay Area food business?

scream sorbet

Meanwhile people are scooping up doughnuts like they’re going out of style. They say doughnuts are the new cupcake (for which I’m thrilled). Doughnut Dolly, around the corner, fills her delightfully sugared balls of fried dough with pastry cream and jammy fruit flavors, selling until they’re all gone..which they always are. Doughnuts are a year-round treat, not taxed by any association with a season or coldness that just doesn’t do the trick on cold winter days.

On her days off, she rents the space for other bakers to use as a “pop up.” Her footprint is small, which is a great way to start slow.
Doughnut Dolly

Even though I don’t live in Michigan, I “liked” Cops & Doughnuts on Facebook simply because of their cool story:

There is a doughnut shop and bakery in Clare, Michigan that has been in constant operation since 1896. This foundation business was within weeks of closing when the members of the Clare Police Department came to the rescue. All of them. That’s right, all nine members of the local police department banded together to save this historic business.

Rule #1 when your business is at risk: shout for help! Early and often. What should Scream Sorbet do? If you had a seasonal business, how would you make money year-round?

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