New Ice Cream Store Sees Positive Reaction Following Test Run Opening

Photo: CREAM has drawn large crowds since its opening in early December. Opening as a test run just before winter break allowed the owner to evaluate the store's performance and improve operations before students returned.
Taryn Erhardt/Photo
CREAM has drawn large crowds since its opening in early December. Opening as a test run just before winter break allowed the owner to evaluate the store's performance and improve operations before students returned.

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CREAM of Berkeley

CREAM, or Cookies Rule Everything Around Me, has recently opened its doors for business and we got the inside scoop from the store's manager.

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Since early December, a nighttime walk down Telegraph Avenue toward Channing Way will usually reveal a long line of customers waiting to experience Berkeley's newest comfort food: warm cookies "engulfing" a scoop of ice cream.

While a number of other businesses located near the UC Berkeley campus reduced store hours in preparation for the business lull that accompanies winter break, CREAM - an acronym for the official name, Cookies Rule Everything Around Me - opened its doors in a test run to gauge consumer response to their product.

Owner Jimmy Shamieh chose a soft opening for CREAM on Dec. 6, so that the majority of consumers - UC Berkeley students - could experience the product before leaving for winter break, during which Shamieh and his family evaluated the business's performance and service as well as the consumer reaction.

"In order to be ready for the onslaught of the after-break business, we wanted to open up before break to see what business is like and to get our feet wet with the actual running of day-to-day business," he said. "Then having that downtime to go over our steps to see what we did right and what we have to improve on - and to improve on it before students come back."

A store that serves custom-made ice cream sandwiches and blended drinks, CREAM is family owned and operated. The business is headed by Shamieh, a San Francisco native who wanted to "provide a little happiness" to consumers "in this economically stressed time." His wife, son and daughter, along with five recently hired UC Berkeley students, make up the store's staff.

Like other customers enjoying CREAM treats, Wellington Onyenwe, a recent UC Berkeley graduate, was first drawn to CREAM by its line - which wrapped around the block.

"(The servers) were all cheery and happy, and it looked like it was pretty exciting," he said. "We actually have something in Los Angeles that's pretty similar to this, but the product here is a little bit different. It has a different edge to it so I really like it out here."

After the store's soft opening in early December, the Shamieh family made some changes to their operations, including offering "the same superior" Double Rainbow brand ice cream and Otis Spunkmeyer brand cookies that consumers with special dietary needs could also enjoy. Shamieh also smoothed out other internal issues by fine-tuning inventory control, work schedules and hiring in addition to managing his storage space.

Although the consumer reaction to CREAM has "exceeded our wildest expectations," Shamieh added that the process of opening his business - which took one and a half to two months' time - was not easy, a common complaint from business owners in the city.

"Berkeley is a difficult place to conduct business that has food service. It's really extremely difficult, and you're going to go through a lot of hoops to be able to get all the permits and licenses required to operate," Shamieh said.

Additionally, he noted that other business owners on Telegraph seem unconvinced by his business model and that they don't see "where the math is, (and) the business sense" in selling his custom-made sandwiches for $1.50.

"Rents and expenses are very high on Telegraph," Shamieh admitted. "The (profit) margin is slim, but the family is working tremendously hard and so we're cutting a lot of the expenses to make this an affordable item to the student, and whether they're right or I'm right, only time will tell."

Jessica Gillotte is the lead business reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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