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The unbeatable combination of premium ice cream sandwiched between warm, freshly-baked cookies has taken Cream from its family-kitchen roots to eight Northern California locations.
After years of sharing their homemade ice cream sandwiches with family and friends, Jimmy and Gus Shamieh opened their first Cream restaurant near the University of California’s Berkeley campus in 2010. The gourmet treats were an immediate hit with students and parents alike, with long lines out the door a common sight.
“Students felt the product and the price were a great value,” said James Ryan, Cream Inc.’s chief operating officer. “Then the holiday breaks or summer sessions came, and you’d start to see parents in the line, almost like they were waiting for their own chance to enjoy the product.”
The other seven locations are franchises, which opened in response to ardent fans who wanted their own opportunity to become a part of the Cream experience. In 2015, more franchised units will open in San Diego, Los Angeles and California’s Central Valley, as well as the Las Vegas area.
“The timing of this has been amazing,” Ryan said of the alignment of the brand’s products with consumer demand for natural and premium ingredients.
“[Our product] was created in a kitchen 15, 20 years ago, but we’re at the forefront of food trends now,” he explained.
Cream’s cookie recipes haven’t changed from the days when the Shamieh family baked them in their kitchen. The proprietary premium ice cream is heavy on the butterfat, with little air. Ryan said the classics such as chocolate chip cookies and mint-chocolate chip ice cream are still leading the pack in menu mix, but flavors like salted caramel and gluten-free or vegan options, including soy strawberry cheesecake, are going strong.
Focusing on the quality of the Cream product and experience, at the right price point, is essential, Ryan added, because the competitive landscape is vast.
“There are multiple concepts competing for the same dollar, with many niche players, especially in the San Francisco Bay area,” he said. “We are looking to create a value proposition that allows us to play in multiple markets — the high-end consumer loves to come down a bit to our brand, while the low-end comes up because of the affordability.”
Cream has been surprised by its success so far in less-dense suburbs. “It has been a revelation that so many different demographics want our brand that we don’t have to look at a Main Street or A+ trade area to be successful,” Ryan said, who indicated that unique social media content has been a boon to its marketing efforts. “Suburban areas have a real desire for cool and interesting brands who want to be part of the community and the residents flock to our tiny — 1,000 square feet — locations.”