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Scream sorbet going out of business??!!!

Ruth Lafler Feb 24, 2013 03:11 PM

Say it ain't so: My sister saw -- and photographed -- a sign at the Scream Sorbet stand at the Mountain View farmers market saying "stock up now, Scream is going out of business"

Anyone have the scoop (pardon the pun)?

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  1. Robert Lauriston RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 24, 2013 03:32 PM

    Phoned and asked. "Yes we are, in March."

    1. Melanie Wong RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 24, 2013 03:34 PM

      Called the store. No date for closing has been set yet, but likely early March. Scream continues to look for new investors.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong
        poser RE: Melanie Wong Feb 24, 2013 06:03 PM

        maybe they sold Oriental carpets in their previous endeavor?

        1. re: poser
          Melanie Wong RE: poser Feb 24, 2013 11:58 PM

          Maybe. But unlike the carpet folks who got in trouble for perpetual "going out of business" promotions, Scream Sorbet is being pretty quiet about this. Nothing on its FB or twitter feed and it posts regularly.

          Here's the pitch from Scream Sorbet on the Investors' Circle,

      2. y
        YoMama1 RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 24, 2013 06:29 PM

        Scream Sorbet in Oakland is going out of business?

        1. n
          nkurz RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 25, 2013 12:19 AM

          The slightly longer answer is that we'll be closing down in early March unless our situation rapidly changes for the better. It's not a certain fate, but definitely the direction we are headed. We've gotten as far as we have based largely on the dedication of our employees, and while most of them are still with us, all of them have already been encouraged to line up other work.

          The most pressing problem is that at the beginning of February, Alameda County Health informed us (quite reasonably) that our permit to sell from the store was not going to be extended unless we submitted architectural plans within 30 days for legally required improvements. We've made no progress on this, don't really even know where to begin, but are certain we can't afford this project without outside funding.

          Slightly less pressing but still urgent, we've come through the winter with about $50K of unpaid bills. We've done our best to pay the smaller vendors we rely on (and who rely on us), but still owe some. And although some of these would be willing to grant us further credit, we don't feel comfortable running up our bill further with more purchases we may not be able to repay. Others (like the credit cards and store landlords) would really prefer their money now, and it will be difficult to continue without their blessing.

          Slightly farther out, we would still need to grow the business significantly (> 2x current sales) to reach financial stability. Every summer, our goal is to simply to figure out how to make it through the next winter. By our models, two more stores around the Bay Area would do it. Or possibly one more and a couple food trucks. Or maybe a couple trucks, lots of markets, and an awful lot of wholesale, catering, corporate campuses, and restaurants. But all of these require significant capital investment, and all would be more achievable by someone with more business experience and connections than we possess.

          So if you happen to know the right investor and/or the right person to help run the company, please send them our way. Soon, preferably.

          Nathan Kurz, (founder Scream Sorbet)

          21 Replies
          1. re: nkurz
            grayelf RE: nkurz Feb 25, 2013 02:05 PM

            This is quite possibly the most honest and informative post I've ever seen by a business owner on Chowhound (maybe anywhere). Bravo for being upfront about what you need, and for your obvious insight into your own capabilities. Best of luck.

            1. re: nkurz
              chemchef RE: nkurz Feb 25, 2013 05:52 PM

              Oh Nate, I am deeply sorry to hear this. I've always been supportive of Scream, and so thankful that you and your staff took such good care of us on our recent tour. I'll keep my eyes and ears open, but if things don't pull through for Scream, what's next on your horizon (or do you know yet)? I hope that you'll stay in touch. All my best, Rachelle

              1. re: nkurz
                artemis RE: nkurz Feb 27, 2013 03:39 PM

                I'm so sorry to hear this. It has been so wonderful to enjoy a truly delicious non-dairy ice cream, and the luscious sorbets that burst with fruit. Your products are amazing. I hope you can find the investors and business management experience you need to support your remarkable vision and talent.

                1. re: nkurz
                  Bella_Blueroll RE: nkurz Jul 4, 2014 02:23 PM

                  I must say, I still miss Scream. It was hands down the best sorbet ever-a lactose intolerant person's dream. A year and a half later and I am still hoping you resurface, or teach a class, or write a cookbook.

                  1. re: Bella_Blueroll
                    Mission RE: Bella_Blueroll Jul 4, 2014 02:55 PM

                    You may want to try "Mr. Dewie's" cashew milk ice cream made in Oakland.


                    1. re: Mission
                      Bella_Blueroll RE: Mission Jul 4, 2014 04:38 PM

                      Thank you! I'll look for it tomorrow.

                      1. re: Mission
                        Bella_Blueroll RE: Mission Jul 6, 2014 07:08 PM

                        I looked for it in three places and finally found it at Berkeley Bowl. The coffee flavor is pretty good. I miss Scream's pistachio though, and their wonderfully lively fruit sorbets.

                        1. re: Bella_Blueroll
                          artemis78 RE: Bella_Blueroll Jul 7, 2014 11:22 PM

                          So funny--I actually just noticed this today for the first time! Just FYI, Whole Foods Oakland stocks it and it is on sale right now (though still $6 or $7, I think). They have several flavors each of the cashew milk and almond milk varieties.

                          1. re: artemis78
                            Bella_Blueroll RE: artemis78 Jul 8, 2014 08:07 AM

                            The Telegraph store didn't have it last weekend. Maybe they restocked. I am going to have to experiment making my own pistachio sorbet.

                            1. re: Bella_Blueroll
                              artemis78 RE: Bella_Blueroll Jul 8, 2014 11:12 AM

                              It may just be in Oakland--they have some deal where they stock a number of products made in Oakland (not sure if that is required by WF corporate or just a thing they do?) so I've often seen products there by smaller Oakland-based producers that are not in the other WF stores across the region. I only happened to notice that one because it was on sale (and my husband is a fan of non-dairy-based ice cream).

                              1. re: artemis78
                                Robert Lauriston RE: artemis78 Jul 8, 2014 12:57 PM

                                The Oakland Whole Foods is the only one that has Firebrand bread.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  The Dive RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 8, 2014 12:59 PM

                                  You can get Firebrand at WF in Oakland!?

                                  1. re: The Dive
                                    Robert Lauriston RE: The Dive Jul 8, 2014 01:05 PM


                                    1. re: The Dive
                                      artemis78 RE: The Dive Jul 8, 2014 09:58 PM

                                      Yes, and it's actually not insanely marked up ($5 a loaf for all varieties). :) The challenge is that they sell out most days, except when Firebrand doesn't bring them enough bags and then they put the bread in Whole Foods bags and no one buys it. Bizarre since it's always in the same stand (with no other breads) but that's how we score our golden raisin fennel baguettes most of the time!

                                      1. re: artemis78
                                        Robert Lauriston RE: artemis78 Jul 9, 2014 10:40 AM

                                        The raisin baguettes often seem to be the only thing left, which for my purposes might as well be sold out.

                                        1. re: artemis78
                                          The Dive RE: artemis78 Jul 9, 2014 11:15 AM

                                          When do they tend to sell out by? I was just saying the other day at Brotzeit while eating a piece of bread -- why can't I get this at home? Perfect.

                                          1. re: The Dive
                                            Robert Lauriston RE: The Dive Jul 9, 2014 11:37 AM

                                            Varies. I've gone in after 8pm and there was still sourdough and whole wheat.

                                            1. re: The Dive
                                              artemis78 RE: The Dive Jul 9, 2014 03:15 PM

                                              Depends, as Robert said--on weekdays we usually stop around 6:30-7 and I'd say about a third of the time they're out of everything, another third of the time they have an odd pretzel or sourdough baguette left but not whatever we were in search of, and the rest of the time we manage to get what we came for (usually raisin, olive, or rye--but sometimes it's the only thing left, too!) They do collapse the display (it's by the bakery cold case near the rotisserie chicken) once it's mostly sold out and will stick what's left in a basket against the wall, so you sometimes have to look to find it. I've had much better luck on weekends, but that's usually earlier in the day, too. You can get their bread from Good Eggs now for about the same price, too--they offer a number of breads that WF doesn't stock.

                            2. re: Bella_Blueroll
                              Ruth Lafler RE: Bella_Blueroll Jul 4, 2014 06:25 PM

                              I miss Scream, too. Today, in fact, I was having a craving for their Thai basil coconut.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                wally RE: Ruth Lafler Jul 4, 2014 07:03 PM


                                1. re: wally
                                  Bella_Blueroll RE: wally Jul 4, 2014 07:22 PM

                                  Yeah, my fave.

                          2. k
                            Kirk_T RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 25, 2013 03:43 PM

                            Very sad to hear about this. The pistachio at Scream is my favorite frozen treat, and we've introduced several of our friends to the store. Really hope things turn around, but stocking up is now on the agenda. Best of luck.

                            1. k
                              Kirk_T RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 28, 2013 11:26 AM

                              They did not have any nut sorbets when I visited last night. The lady at the counter wasn't sure if they would make more pistachio, but said hazlenut was unlikely. Best to call and ask in the coming days, she advised. She did not know when the store would be closing.

                              1. Caitlin McGrath RE: Ruth Lafler Feb 28, 2013 06:07 PM

                                Per a post on their Facebook page, Scream's last day will be Sunday, March 10. On that day, they'll dish free scoops at the shop from noon until 8 p.m.


                                41 Replies
                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                  abstractpoet RE: Caitlin McGrath Mar 2, 2013 04:41 AM

                                  Already closed. =(


                                  1. re: abstractpoet
                                    Melanie Wong RE: abstractpoet Mar 2, 2013 08:18 AM

                                    Thanks for the update.

                                    I stopped by last night about 10pm after having dinner across the street at Juhu Beach Club. Nate was working on closing up and shared the day's news that he could no longer sell from the scoop shop. I had a chance to clarify a point that hasn't been made in the press coverage. That is, Scream Sorbet is produced and stored in a separate commercial kitchen. While it cannot be sold from the store on Telegraph until improvements are made to that venue, farmers markets sales need not be affected by the permit issue that shut down the retail shop. As of that hour yesterday, he was still planning to have the regular booth at the Grand Lake farmers market today.

                                    Also learned that he has been meeting with potential investors. . . a glimmer of hope. I snapped this photo last night. There's a new batch of pistachio.

                                    I, and many other 'hounds, met Nate when he joined us at the 2008 picnic shortly after the company launched. He's a chowhound of the first order and makes a great product that changed our ideas of what sorbet could be.

                                    Chowing with the Hounds Picnic, 2008 Report -

                                    1. re: abstractpoet
                                      shanghaikid RE: abstractpoet Mar 2, 2013 10:31 AM

                                      reading the article leads a clear impression that Nate knowingly and willingly opened the shop on telegraph without the proper equipment necessary to store the sorbets. (the carts are not good enough)

                                      Nate didn't follow the rules/law. that's why the shop was shuttered.by the health department.

                                      nevertheless, i'm sad for him. nate was underfunded from the get go.

                                      1. re: shanghaikid
                                        abstractpoet RE: shanghaikid Mar 2, 2013 03:43 PM

                                        My understanding is that the equipment is perfectly safe; it's just that the permit he has is inadequate. If he had opened in a space already licensed to serve food (a former ice cream shop or restaurant), his current setup probably would have been fine.

                                        But yes, it does sound like some of the initial business decisions were not ideal...

                                        1. re: abstractpoet
                                          shanghaikid RE: abstractpoet Mar 3, 2013 08:06 AM

                                          yes, hiring a consultant to cut thru the red tape or steering around them would have been prudent. (or learning from someone who has extended experience with alameda health dept.)

                                          -"it's just that the permit he has is inadequate.."
                                          re the permit issue. clearly this wasn't waivable. scream sorbet would eventually have to comply. when they didn't, it was sufficient cause for the health department to shut them down. (and they did, unfortunately)

                                          scream sorbet should have had cost estimates to see how much compliance would cost and how long it would take.
                                          whether this was feasible should also have been weighed

                                          throwing an hail mary pass (bad analogy?) isn't the best way to start/operate/sustain a budding biz..

                                          1. re: shanghaikid
                                            nkurz RE: shanghaikid Mar 3, 2013 11:50 AM

                                            "scream sorbet should have had cost estimates to see how much compliance would cost and how long it would take.
                                            whether this was feasible should also have been weighed"

                                            We'd love to have this information, and still haven't been able to find a way to get it. Suggestions of affordable health compliance consultants appreciated. But given what we know now, the result would have been that Scream Sorbet would have never existed.

                                            It's arguable whether this would have been better or worse for the world. Certainly I and our backers would be in a better financial situation if we'd never started. But then our sorbet, which many people clearly like, would never have been tasted and enjoyed.

                                            There is also some benefit even to the public who does not consume our sorbet. Since starting, we've probably paid around $1M of local wages, $200K of payroll taxes, and over $100K of market fees and permits. Despite our compliance issues, we've paid at least $20K to Alameda County Health alone.

                                            Rather than starting with the goal of maximum profitability, we started with a passion for a great product, and hoped that along the way we'd find a way to make it a sustainable business. This is naive, but also why the sorbet is as uncompromised as it is, and largely why we have the fans that we do.

                                            We hope to still find that way.

                                        2. re: shanghaikid
                                          nkurz RE: shanghaikid Mar 2, 2013 11:30 PM

                                          There's certainly an element of truth to that, although the reason we were actually shut down was probably more due to our poor negotiating skill than with the violations themselves.

                                          The store was very difficult to open. We figured it would be fast and inexpensive to open, as there were very few improvements that we needed to make. After $80K, 14 months, and much floundering with permits, we finally managed to open in a way that we thought was legal. It involved selling from a licensed mobile food cart, inside of our of our rented space. We were told that Blue Bottle started this way.

                                          This approach is clearly not the intent of the law, but is technically legal if done correctly, and at least got us open. Renovating the space to be licensed in a traditional manner as a commercial kitchen would have been longer and at least $100K more. We probably should have listened to the people who told us that we shouldn't consider any space that wasn't already licensed, but we felt this was a great location in the exact neighborhood we wanted to be part of.

                                          It wasn't until our recent meeting with Alameda Health that I realized that the sale of the prepacked cartons was not legal. I had presumed that packaged food did not require anything other than a Oakland sales permit. We did know that we were noncompliant by leaving the cart and the frozen sorbet overnight in the store. Identical freezers in a licensed commissary would have been legal, and the same freezers in the same spot would have been legal if we had been properly permitted.

                                          I don't fault Alameda Health. They treated us as well as they could, and eventually got fed up with our non-compliance. Our goal was/is to achieve compliance, but we could never find a way to transition from our partially-licensed state to the proper state without being shut down while we obtained the proper permits. We kept hoping that an opportunity would present itself and it never came. This is partly due to the inherent complexity of dealing with all the overlapping regulatory agencies, but mostly due to my lack of skill in this area and insufficient money to hire outside experts.

                                          1. re: nkurz
                                            shanghaikid RE: nkurz Mar 3, 2013 07:46 AM

                                            thanx for a succinct explanation. you've explained a common problem experienced by many newcomers to the retail scene.

                                            i.e. what does a regulation mean? blue bottle example.

                                            some newcomers assume since someone/some business had done something similar, they can do the same/similar thing. unfortunately as your case shows, not necessarily so.

                                            note: regulations re coffee shops and ice cream shops may be different/unique.

                                            in cases like this, getting a green light from the health department is paramount. having a consultant familiar with permit issues in specific areas is also helpful (if possible, $$
                                            dependent). yes, you mentioned this.

                                            a cavaett is land use issues, conditional use permits, zoning etc. for every neighborhood is unique due no doubt to their unique characteristics.

                                            alameda and countra costa health departments are very tuff, regulations wise. all new biz owners are finding this out.
                                            sorry you had to experience this the hard way.

                                            1. re: nkurz
                                              olyolyy RE: nkurz Mar 10, 2013 10:15 AM

                                              Sorry, but I absolutely fault the ridiculous quagmire of permitting that is prevalent in California. Cities and counties are pricing small business out of places like the bay area, where only Starbucks and Chipotles can bear the costs required to acquire a new use permit.

                                              1. re: olyolyy
                                                Robert Lauriston RE: olyolyy Mar 10, 2013 10:50 AM

                                                That's a somewhat absurd argument given how many independent restaurants open every month around here.

                                                Scream should have found a space that already had a legal commercial kitchen or raised enough money to build one before signing a lease.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                  olyolyy RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 10, 2013 01:43 PM

                                                  My statement was a personal observation, not an argument.

                                                  1. re: olyolyy
                                                    Robert Lauriston RE: olyolyy Mar 10, 2013 01:59 PM

                                                    Your proposition is that a permitting quagmire made it too expensive for Scream to do business. The actual problems were that they had no business plan and were under-capitalized. Scream's owner himself said the health department was acting reasonably.

                                                    A couple of dozen other restaurants and food shops in the same immediate area have managed to deal with the city, county, and state permits successfully.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                      Ruth Lafler RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 11, 2013 05:51 PM

                                                      The "blame the victim" direction this thread has taken makes me uncomfortable. I don't recall people speculating on chowhound about how undercapitalized Locanda de Eva was or how bad its business plan must have been.

                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                        Robert Lauriston RE: Ruth Lafler Mar 11, 2013 06:19 PM

                                                        No need to speculate, nkurz volunteered a pretty detailed explanation of the missteps that put them in this situation.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                          Ruth Lafler RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 11, 2013 06:25 PM

                                                          Well then why the ongoing discussion?

                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                            Robert Lauriston RE: Ruth Lafler Mar 11, 2013 06:58 PM

                                                            If you want a thread to stop, don't post.

                                                          2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                            ML8000 RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 12, 2013 11:41 AM

                                                            Professional courtesy or simple civility, try one.

                                                2. re: nkurz
                                                  sugartoof RE: nkurz Mar 11, 2013 01:01 AM

                                                  I hope you can salvage Scream, and perhaps bring on an experienced managerial partner rather than just an investor. I would think that at worst, you could sell the business if it comes to that. Perhaps you can focus on manufacturing, and wholesaling small batch to restaurants, plus special orders?

                                                  My question though, is how you were able to get signed off by the health department in the first place and operate for over a year? With 80k as capital, you should have been able to account for these issues up front, including putting in a cheap makeshift kitchen, or at least the minimum needed in sinks, freezers, functional bathroom, etc. instead of paying to rent a commercial kitchen (Don't tell us if you're not), on top of your retail space's rent. It's true that the Bay Area is full of spaces sitting ready with proper zoning, and it would have made more sense to pursue one - but if you got licensed as a food cart, and wanted to plop it in a retail space, and got signed off, why wouldn't that be legal?

                                                  Finally, the 100k to build the commercial kitchen sounds high, even for new equipment, but that over estimate aside, why wouldn't you simply be able to buy a freezer at auction, or build a walk-in unit to keep the business open and comply now? You spent two years on your build out, skirting basic compliance that you can still do in a week or two, with a budget no more than a typical Kickstarter fundraiser.

                                                  1. re: sugartoof
                                                    Melanie Wong RE: sugartoof Mar 11, 2013 01:20 AM

                                                    One of the novel suggestions I saw floated on the 'net is to utilize Bakesale Betty on the corner as a commissary and freezer facility for finished product storage, as it's open very limited hours and at a different time than Scream's retail shop was.

                                                    1. re: sugartoof
                                                      nkurz RE: sugartoof Mar 11, 2013 02:47 AM

                                                      Sugartoof, your optimism is wonderful, but I sense that you have yet to operate a food business in Oakland. But if you have, my hat is off to you on your ability to work within the system! We are indeed looking for a managerial partner. All acquisition offers will be seriously considered as well.

                                                      The $80K was just for the store itself, and was as low as it was because we did the majority of labor ourselves and already had most of the equipment. The total amount into the business so far is about $350K, plus 4 years of my unpaid labor. Plus a lot of free or underpaid help from dedicated employees and helpful outsiders.

                                                      Robert is right that we came into this underfunded, but I disagree with his assertion that we did not have a business plan. Rather, the business plan we had underestimated the costs of starting and operating a business in California. Our assumptions for actual production costs were much more accurate.

                                                      As to the success of nearby businesses, it's likely that many of them have more business talent than I do, or insight that I lack. But I'd warn against taking their continued existence for granted. While many are making it, I'm not sure how many are thriving. I'd suggest that all that still exist are working extremely hard to be where they are at. Unless you specifically know otherwise, I think you should consider all of them to be at risk.

                                                      1. re: nkurz
                                                        Robert Lauriston RE: nkurz Mar 11, 2013 09:11 AM

                                                        Sorry, I almost said bad business plan. I went with no plan based on your statement that you spent every summer trying to figure out how to make it through the next winter and that you apparently didn't budget the money for the unavoidable expense of bringing the store up to code.

                                                        My restaurant's business plan was solid as far as estimating expenses and we weren't under-capitalized. We just didn't get enough customers to make it work and weren't seeing a trend to get there.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                          sugartoof RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 11, 2013 01:29 PM

                                                          "we weren't under-capitalized. We just didn't get enough customers to make it work"

                                                          It's a common mistake. Restaurants create a business plan based on fantasy numbers, where they over estimate the volume of sales they can do the first 2 years. When they inevitably fall short of their own forecasted numbers, they realize there's a cash flow problem, with a lack of capital to stay in business and meet overhead during that unaccounted period building a reputation. If your working capital is only enough to get the doors open, or meet overhead for a few months times, then you're under capitalized. Once the starting investment runs out, most restaurants get a wake up call for how sustainable their business is, and realize their numbers weren't as solid as they thought. That said, most restaurants in SF are similarly under capitalized. Sometimes the numbers balance out, and they succeed.

                                                          Scream wasn't full service, so it's a different scenario, but I think you were just trying to put it nicely, and I agree with you.

                                                          1. re: sugartoof
                                                            Robert Lauriston RE: sugartoof Mar 11, 2013 02:27 PM

                                                            My observation is that around here restaurants draw a following quickly or not at all. If after two or three months you're not making your numbers and they're getting worse, staying open for two years would probably just be throwing good money after bad.

                                                            I can't think of a place that opened in recent years that slowly built a following.

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                              tranewreck RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 11, 2013 03:36 PM

                                                              Izakaya Sozai comes to mind. Very slow for the first year or more...now lines out the door

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                sugartoof RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 11, 2013 03:53 PM

                                                                Coi comes to mind...and Patterson had a rep.
                                                                Outerlands is another.

                                                                Depends how realistic your numbers are and how much capital you have as padding. The idea that you can determine your success in 2 months suggests a failure to understand the basic economics of the industry. The idea that once you throw open the doors, your profits will float a first time food service business is outright naive. Projected covers are always fantasy based. Would you live by the numbers in your business plan again?

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                  nocharge RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 11, 2013 09:07 PM

                                                                  While it may not qualify as "recent years", one famous example of a restaurant that had a rough start but went on to become highly successful is Ozumo. They opened in 2001 and were hit by the double whammy of the dot com collapse and September 11, both of which made the restaurant climate in San Francisco very challenging. They survived 2001 by the skin of their teeth, but will probably make $9M in revenue this year with cash flow in the millions.

                                                                  1. re: nocharge
                                                                    Robert Lauriston RE: nocharge Mar 12, 2013 08:15 AM

                                                                    Goes to show the power of upselling.

                                                            2. re: nkurz
                                                              sugartoof RE: nkurz Mar 11, 2013 01:07 PM

                                                              "and already had most of the equipment. "

                                                              But not the equipment required by health codes to operate?

                                                              I don't doubt you spent money on beautiful signage, and wainscoting, but your reply doesn't seem to acknowledge the real lesson here - your business plan should have included the basic equipment for you to operate legally the day you opened your doors, in the space you picked, which should have been conducive to your business, and financially sound for your particular budget. You still avoided the question of how you got signed off to open for business and stay open as long as you did if you weren't compliant? Did the requirements change? Presuming you're being forthcoming/transparent here, you can easily get up to code and use a licensed kitchen or storage, off site.

                                                              I'm really, really, rooting for you, but I have to say, the story doesn't entirely add up.

                                                              1. re: sugartoof
                                                                Robert Lauriston RE: sugartoof Mar 11, 2013 01:24 PM

                                                                nkurz explained above how they opened with a food cart in the shop to avoid having to spend $100K on bringing the premises up to code. In hindsight that doesn't make much sense but presumably at the time they were optimistic that they'd sort it all out somehow.


                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                  sugartoof RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 11, 2013 03:51 PM

                                                                  What he didn't explain is why that solution is no longer suitable.

                                                              2. re: nkurz
                                                                lmnopm RE: nkurz Mar 11, 2013 06:56 PM

                                                                The "continued existence" comment is right on point. Some of our favorites, with lines out the door, are living a precarious existence.

                                                                Almost every public story has a back story. Every lease that has "been lost" isn't simply a piece of paper that disappeared in a file cabinet. I am sometimes floored when I hear a quiet back story about who isn't paying a bill to whom.

                                                                I appreciate the candor of the Scream owner.

                                                                1. re: lmnopm
                                                                  charliemyboy RE: lmnopm Mar 12, 2013 10:16 AM

                                                                  I second lmnopm’s appreciation of nkurz’s candor. It must be hard when your dream has come crashing down to talk so openly about it and leave yourself open to second-guessing by everyone who thinks they could have done it better.

                                                                  I don’t have any inside knowledge of the restaurant business but I used to teach a course in organizing small businesses and met a lot of small business owners. Many of them started their venture because they loved what they were doing. About 80% of small businesses close their doors in the first 5 years. In some cases it’s a disaster for the owner, in other cases the owner learns from the experience and goes on to success in another venture. We all gain from the willingness of people to go against the odds because they have a vision of something great. If you want to open a restaurant with a higher certainty of making money, there is an option for you— it’s called fast food franchising.

                                                                  Thank you nkurz for Scream Sorbet. You make a great product which has given me some intensely pleasurable moments. Even if you do not find a way to continue, your efforts have not been in vain.

                                                                  1. re: charliemyboy
                                                                    calalilly RE: charliemyboy Mar 12, 2013 11:34 AM

                                                                    It's always sad to see a small business not make it. I generally don't like to comment on business plans etc because I know how hard people work to open their dream businesses and don't think it's fair for people to judge. But since the owner posted, I thought I would share my two cents (so yes, I guess I'm judging).

                                                                    I agree with what Robert wrote about finding an existing location that already had the set up that was needed vs spending $80k+ on trying make the space work for the business. That's not including labor cost, vendor costs, etc. I mean, just in terms of numbers, how many scoops of ice cream would Scream have had to sell just to recoup that cost?

                                                                    My entire family owned/has owned successul restaurants in the bay area over the last 30 years. Most of them are retired at this point, except my dad who still does restaurant consulting. I say "successful" because most have lasted 15 years plus and were able to be sold for a profit.

                                                                    With that said, I'm also surprised at how much restaurants/food places in general spend on start up costs and general decor of the restaurant. You can have a beautiful space but if the food or service doesn't stand on it's own, it will never succeed in the long run.

                                                                    I know of a 50-seat restaurant in this area where they spent a total of $35k including kitchen equipment, basic remodeling, initial vendor costs, permits, etc. The place has been opened about 6 months and is already in the black.

                                                                    I think it's critical for new entrepreneurs to seek out advice/help from experienced people in the industry to look at the details of a business plan and exam all areas of cost. Otherwise what one thinks something will cost vs actual cost maybe end up costing them their dream.

                                                                    1. re: calalilly
                                                                      Robert Lauriston RE: calalilly Mar 12, 2013 12:09 PM

                                                                      People often follow their dreams past the point where disinterested investors would pull the plug.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                        sugartoof RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 12, 2013 12:14 PM

                                                                        No such thing as a disinterested investor if they have an interest at stake....or tasted Scream Sorbet.

                                                                        1. re: sugartoof
                                                                          Robert Lauriston RE: sugartoof Mar 12, 2013 12:24 PM

                                                                          I mean disinterested in the sense that they don't let non-economic factors such as how fantastic and unique Scream's sorbet is interfere with the cold analysis of risk vs. return on investment.

                                                                          At a certain point, putting more capital into a risky business will decrease the potential ROI to the point that you could get the same return from a diversified stock portfolio or some other relatively safe and boring investment.

                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                            sugartoof RE: Robert Lauriston Mar 12, 2013 12:57 PM

                                                                            No grasp of why people invest in a food business these days? Okay.

                                                                      2. re: calalilly
                                                                        sugartoof RE: calalilly Mar 12, 2013 12:22 PM

                                                                        35k would barely cover securing the lease, so that success story is sort of a fluke than a useable case study, but I think the point is to work within limitations, prioritize and spend smartly.

                                                                        1. re: sugartoof
                                                                          calalilly RE: sugartoof Mar 12, 2013 12:31 PM

                                                                          35k is completely possible depending on location and expectations. The business I mentioned is definitely not going to earn millions, but it will make a good living to support a family of 5, which is what the business owner wanted.

                                                                          1. re: calalilly
                                                                            sugartoof RE: calalilly Mar 12, 2013 01:05 PM

                                                                            You really want people to think they can run out in SF or Oakland with 35k and cover upfront rent plus security on a 50 seat premises, plus point of sale, permits, basic business licensing, insurance, other deposits, repairs, replace some equipment, and open your doors?

                                                                            I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm saying it's an unlikely scenario to duplicate.

                                                          2. re: abstractpoet
                                                            Caitlin McGrath RE: abstractpoet Mar 2, 2013 10:55 AM

                                                            That's a shame. I was there yesterday afternoon (had to plow through the Bakesale Betty line to get through the door), apparently just a bit before they were shut down. Glad I got my cup of pistachio and lime-mint, and a pre-packed hazelnut and chocolate to go.

                                                        2. Melanie Wong RE: Ruth Lafler Mar 2, 2013 09:16 AM

                                                          Minutes ago Scream tweeted:

                                                          "The future is uncertain, but your support has been extraordinary. We plan to be at Grand Lake on Saturday & Palo Alto on Sunday. <3 <3 <3"


                                                          1. l
                                                            LAMark RE: Ruth Lafler Mar 3, 2013 02:29 PM

                                                            This would be quite a loss for the Bay Area, like when Cocolat went away. Went to Whole Foods and bought them out of Pistachio and Coconut Thai Basil.

                                                            1. Melanie Wong RE: Ruth Lafler Mar 10, 2013 01:08 AM

                                                              Anyone see Scream at farmers market on Saturday? Wondering what the plan is for today.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                LAMark RE: Melanie Wong Mar 10, 2013 09:50 AM

                                                                No sign of them at the Ferry Building Saturday (March 9). For a while they were also showing up at the little famer's market outside of 303 2nd on Wendesdays, which was amazing since I work in that building. I told as many people as I could at work about them, but they stopped coming a couple of months back.

                                                                Still stocking up...

                                                              2. Jbirdsall RE: Ruth Lafler Mar 20, 2013 10:41 AM

                                                                From yesterday's Tablehopper, potential investors (including Ici?) trying to come up with a plan to save Scream:


                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: Jbirdsall
                                                                  Robert Lauriston RE: Jbirdsall Mar 20, 2013 11:17 AM

                                                                  A collaboration with Ici could make a lot of sense. Their products would be highly complementary.

                                                                  1. re: Jbirdsall
                                                                    nkurz RE: Jbirdsall Mar 20, 2013 11:52 AM

                                                                    Although we are exploring many options and hope to find a way to continue making our sorbet, the article is not quite correct. We have talked to Ici and several other local businesses about possible collaboration, but this has been separate from our talks with potential investors. Mary has offered kind advice and encouragement but has no plans to invest --- at least not that she has told me! Still, feel free to send other collaborators or illustrious prospects our way.

                                                                    1. re: nkurz
                                                                      olyolyy RE: nkurz Mar 20, 2013 02:05 PM

                                                                      You should try to get on Shark Tank

                                                                  2. Ruth Lafler RE: Ruth Lafler May 22, 2013 05:20 PM

                                                                    Latest news from their Facebook page:

                                                                    "We’ve been busy restructuring and hope to have lots to share soon. Unfortunately our store on Telegraph will not be reopening, but we plan to partner with someone else in Oakland so you can find our delicious sorbet again this summer."

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                      chowmeaow RE: Ruth Lafler May 22, 2013 10:09 PM

                                                                      Now thats great. And hope they continue to sell screams at farmer's markets , etc. I was one of their fans after only having it for couple of times. Some of the flavors, hit the spot.

                                                                    2. Melanie Wong RE: Ruth Lafler Jul 4, 2013 10:01 PM

                                                                      The latest, a pop-up in Berkeley:

                                                                      "Find Scream Sorbet at Bittersweet!
                                                                      We’re delighted to announce that Scream Sorbet is available this weekend at Bittersweet, one of our favorite local, artisanal places. Come visit their newest location at 1952 University in Berkeley Friday 8-7 and Sat 9-7 to restock your freezer with Scream and enjoy Bittersweet’s signature hot chocolate, chocolate desserts, sandwiches and salads plus their rose garden. Right now there is limited availability of prepacks (no scooping) in Strawberry Lemon, Madecasse Chocolate, Lemon Shiso, and Pistachio. Prices are $10 for white lids, $12 for black lids. We hope to continue and expand our partnership with Bittersweet, so please stop by and show them how great Scream fans are."


                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                        Robert Lauriston RE: Melanie Wong Jul 5, 2013 10:50 AM

                                                                        Mmm, their pistachio is the greatest.

                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                          Melanie Wong RE: Robert Lauriston Jul 5, 2013 11:03 AM

                                                                          We don't get many second chances in life. However, it looks like Scream Sorbet has another opportunity to make a go of it with this pop-up fundraiser as a first step. And we as consumers have a second chance as well. When a small business with a great product like this falters unexpectedly, I always feel some measure of guilt that I could have done more. Let's do our part to keep 'em going. This seems to be a test, and if we want to see more Scream Sorbet in Marin or elsewhere, better get over to Berkeley to show your support.

                                                                        2. re: Melanie Wong
                                                                          Robert Lauriston RE: Melanie Wong Jul 7, 2013 11:20 AM

                                                                          I went by yesterday around noon but they'd already run out of pistachio.

                                                                        3. Sarah RE: Ruth Lafler Jul 4, 2013 10:07 PM

                                                                          Where to get Scream in Marin...?

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