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The Scoop on Berkeley’s Chilly Ice Cream Rivalry

August 20, 2013

The Berkeley corner of Telegraph Avenue and Channing Way is on the verge of becoming a very rocky road indeed.

On one side of the corner stands CREAM, typically identifiable by the line of people stretched down the sidewalk waiting to purchase one of its signature ice cream cookie sandwiches. Since opening in 2010, CREAM—an acronym for Cookies Rule Everything Around Me—has become a local institution. As The Daily Californian’s Daily Clog blog noted this month in its “40 More Signs You Went to UC Berkeley” feature: “To get your cream sandwich fix, you will endure anything. The line starts two blocks away? It just began to rain? Challenge accepted.”

On the opposite corner, a rival takeout ice cream shop is on its way. The Berkeley City Council last month gave final approval to a proposal from prominent Telegraph Avenue proprietor Ken Sarachan, who also owns Rasputin Music and Blondie’s Pizza. The new ice cream shop is currently “in development.”

Its name? Dream.

The name alone rankles CREAM, its loyal customers, and even city council members who voted to approve Dream despite a vigorous appeal from CREAM to stop it. The name, said Mayor Tom Bates, is “like poking your finger in someone’s eye.”

But as the man behind Dream, Sarachan contends a new ice cream shop will help him recoup lost revenue from a huge drop in record sales at Rasputin’s. He has said he plans to serve organic ice cream developed by Atomic Ice Cream owner Ray Lai, who, to sweeten the deal, distributed free strawberry ice cream samples outside the council chambers.

For months CREAM owners Jimmy and Gus Shamieh waged a zoning battle to put an end to what was, in their eyes. a bad Dream. They complained that customers drawn to Dream’s proposed takeout window on Channing Way would worsen traffic, put bicyclists at risk and interfere with disabled people accessing the sidewalk. Besides, Jimmy Shamieh told us, mixing food service and the selling of vinyl records “presents a huge sanitary challenge.”

Defending Dream, Sarachan hailed the virtue of healthy local competition, decried business monopolies, and even paid homage to trust-buster Teddy Roosevelt.

Ultimately, the city council denied CREAM’s appeal and approved construction of Rasputin’s Dream, on condition that it take out the takeout window.

So now Sarachan is looking to fulfill his Dream, Shamieh is aspiring to CREAM this new challenger, and ice cream lovers in Berkeley are likely to savor the chilly competition.

—Jessica Pena

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