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New Blends, Flavors Give Ice Cream Shops a Boost

April 29, 1986|COLLEEN COSTELLO | Times Staff Writer

Grazing, or tapa, restaurants aren't the only new eateries sprouting in downtown San Diego--ice cream shops are also one the rise.

But the stores bear little resemblance to the old-time drugstore soda fountains, where a patron could choose from only a few flavors.

Today the trend is for original or personalized creations with plenty of flavors.

Strawberry sundaes and root beer floats are being replaced with "purple passion" and "Dickens delight."

But it's the blending process, not the names, that makes the real difference in the new wave of ice cream.

Take, for example, the Apple Tree Ice Cream & Crumpet Co., on 5th Avenue downtown, whose name came from a Charles Dickens novel.

Avid fans of both ice cream and literature, owners Melissa Cleary and Joe Glennon wanted to take a name from Dickens' novel "Nicholas Nickleby."

"We wanted to name it the United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin & Crumpet Baking & Punctual Delivery Co., like the book. But you can't have a name that long these days, " Cleary said.

The owners of Apple Tree Ice Cream & Crumpet Co. chose the Gaslamp Quarter because of a lack of ice cream shops in the area.

"I was a legal assistant and on lunch breaks I'd want ice cream but couldn't find any," said Cleary, explaining the choice of location for the Apple Tree, which opened Monday.

Before the Apple Tree owners could be considered for a downtown lease, Cleary and Glennon had to buy a $1-million insurance policy.

The two also decided on the "revitalized" Gaslamp Quarter because of comparably cheaper rent than, for example, Horton Plaza.

Cleary pays $1,800 a month for Apple Tree's 1,200-square-foot shop, which includes a room upstairs where homemade ice cream is created.

"It's not cheap to start you own business," Cleary said.

In Apple Tree's blending room is a $10,000 batch freezer that holds flavoring, dairy products and fruit. The freezer initiates the ice cream process.

Next, the tubs of soft ice cream are put in an $11,000 hardening cabinet freezer.

The ice cream is hand-mixed on a marble slab with a long spatula, using an array of 20 "complements" ranging from nuts to fruits.

Then the ice cream is ready for customers.

Another newly opened downtown ice cream shop is Hobson's Fine Blended Ice Creams, a franchised business linked with Hobson's International of Santa Barbara.

Hobson's has brought a unique process to Horton Plaza--the Hobson Blend. The blending process combines fruits and confections together with the ice cream in an unusual way, according to owner Edwin LaZar.

While blending and warming the ice cream, the Hobson's equipment intensifies the flavors, 12 in all, according to LaZar.

"We personalize ice cream," he said.

The entire Hobson's system--which included construction, franchise fees, equipment, decorations and plumbing--cost about $140,000, LaZar said. Monthly rent for its Horton Plaza shop is $2,700.

Another approach to ice cream shop sales needs no processing or equipment gimmicks. It relies on convenient home delivery.

The Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream Shop, in Pacific Beach, delivers ice cream to customers in Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and south La Jolla with a minimum purchase of $6.

"As far as I know, we are the only ice cream shop in the country to deliver," said owner Marc Lantzman, who also owns the Pizza Shuttle pizza shop, at nearby SeaCoast Square.

Customers can order home-delivered pizza and ice cream at the same time. Home delivery has enhanced ice cream sales on weekends, Lantzman said.

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