Valley Public Radio - Live Audio

The Three Ingredients Of A Successful Ice Cream Shop

Jul 2, 2013

Valley Public Radio reporters Rebecca Plevin and Ezra Romero teamed up to look at three ice cream shops that have remained popular and successful across generations. They identified three factors that have allowed these shops to stand the test of time.

  • Location, location, location

Reimer’s Candies and Gifts opened more than 50 years ago in Three Rivers, near Sequoia National Park. Today it’s owned by Mary Ann and Lynn Bretz, who bought the ice cream and chocolate shop eight years ago.

Mary Ann Bretz says the company’s location contributes to its success. The original shop looks like a mountain house in the Swiss Alps. The company’s newer stores are in Avila Beach, on the Central Coast, and in Oakhurst, near Yosemite National park.

“Our concept is to be a beautiful, little candy and ice cream store in beautiful places,” Mary Ann Bretz says. “It’s that gingerbread house that you find after a walk in the woods.”

But Reimer’s offers more than ice cream with a view. The shop’s location also influences its flavors. Their blackberries, peaches, walnuts and almonds are all grown locally.

  • Community Connection

When you walk into Superior Dairy, you step back in time. The ceilings are tin-pressed, the booths are gumball-colored, and the scoops are enormous.

Susan Wing, co-owner and president of Superior Dairy in Hanford, says customers continue to visit the shop to reconnect with childhood memories and pleasures.

“I think it’s something that people think will always be here and they think they can always come back and get the same gigantic thing they got before,” Wing says. “It’s going to taste the same and hopefully look the same.”

Fresno State professor Dr. William Rice says those deep community roots allow Superior Dairy – and other ice cream shops – to maintain a loyal customer base.

“All three of them have longevity, and have connectivity, because those roots are back before you had an onslaught of all the specialty ice cream places today, which are too fast, too cut and dry, too sterile for that kind of remembrances and family connectivity that you remember back from those days,” he says.

  • Family business, Family values

Dewar’s Candy in Bakersfield is more than 100 years old, and has been in the same family for generations. It’s known for its ice cream, candy and ice milk, a lower-calorie treat.

Peter Johnson, director of the Institute for Family Business at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, says family owned businesses, like Dewar’s, can be successful because the whole family is dedicated to upholding the legacy.

“When their names are on the wall, it gives them a sense of pride, and there’s a passion around that,” Johnson says.

He says that even as a business grows or adds new products, it’s important to maintain the family’s core values.

“Those kinds of values help families be successful, year after year and generation after generation,” he says.