Janikke Klem, born in San Jose, has a Friday tradition with her seven-year-old twins. Every week the Willow Glen family goes on a hunt for new local dessert stores to try, whether it be a bakery, chocolate shop, or candy store.
But one of her long-time favorite local ice cream brands from her own childhood that has become a family favorite with her twins is Treat Ice Cream.
“My parents shopped at Lunardis and I remember picking up those tubs of treat ice with the best flavors,” she said. “From coffee to seasonal pumpkins to peppermint – it’s delicious ice cream that is of high quality and super creamy.”
The ice cream maker has been a hometown favorite since 1951 and has a manufacturing facility in Naglee Park in San Jose. On April 15, this facility will close as the company becomes part of the Santa Cruz-based Marianne family of ice cream suppliers.
The sales and closings of facilities weren’t entirely due to the Covid-19-triggered recession, but the downturn didn’t help after years of struggling for profit and often even revenue, says Bob Mauseth, who took over the business in 2001 his father.
Treat’s absence will add to the growing list of longtime restaurants and retailers that South Bay lost last year, and it means one less player in the San Jose food ecosystem, says Ryan Sebastian, owner and operator of Treatbot Ice Cream in San Jose .
“The food ecosystem is so important to getting people going, and Treat is an integral part of the food ecosystem – especially around dessert,” he says. “Your products can be found everywhere, but they are in places that are more likely to be locally owned or operated.”
To date, there is no definitive official list of restaurants and retailers lost in South Bay or even San Jose during the pandemic. However, if it does, the list will include a number of long-standing staples.
Pizzetta 408, Vitamina, and Vero Coffee are all closed on the SoFA market in downtown San Jose. The Forager Food Hall and Event Center stopped across the street from the SoFA market, and Chacho’s owners tossed in the towel at the San Jose site, with no viable sources of income, a string of break-ins and what they described as little support from local officials . Cinebar, South Bay’s oldest watering hole, went up in flames in mid-January.
New players such as The Guildhouse, a gamer lounge planned to be the “spiritual successor” of the former AFKgg Gamer Lounge, will also open in the city center this year. Before that, Good Spot, a new gastro lounge, is preparing for its grand opening in the coming weeks.
In February, Natural Sweet, a Colombian and Italian restaurant, opened on the SoFA market. The Nirvana Soul Café and the Portuguese fast-casual restaurant Petiscos also opened near the city center during the pandemic. The companies are defying the normal times of the first busy years of operation, but are now including oscillating lockdown measures due to the pandemic.
Klem likes it when the new restaurateurs and entrepreneurs arrive, but hopes that local lawmakers and residents will find ways to support the new businesses alongside the traditional institutions that have long made the region more colorful and enjoyable.
“This is what breathes life and soul into our community and offers opportunities for engagement,” she says. “While Treat may go away, I hope people are still looking for their goodies in the local neighborhoods.”
‘To come to the end’
Treat Ice Cream opened in 1951 and was created by Alfred Mauseth, known to dedicated customers as “Mr. Treat. “It became a hidden but popular gem on the edge of a small parking lot with no signage in the Naglee Park neighborhood of San Jose.
It’s an easy place to miss, long-time fans admit, but with rich flavors like Tin Roof Sundae, Black Raspberry Ripple, and Cookie Mint Crunch, they say the search was worth it. The Mauseths prided themselves on making their own chocolate and fudge in-house.
“We’re just a simple ice cream factory and a family business. My parents open the shop and my sister, my brother and I come in later, ”says Bob Mauseth.
Despite family history, Mauseth says he has known for at least three years that the family had to discuss other options as profits declined and some siblings moved to other jobs. Covid-19 affected Treat, but it was only a small factor in the decision to close the Naglee Park warehouse and move the business to another local favorite, Marianne’s.
“I love running the business and I love running it,” says Mauseth. “But we knew it was going to end.”
Sebastian originally heard about Treat as a child when his aunt mentioned the “hidden place” to buy ice cream. In 2010 he launched his Treatbot karaoke ice cream van and worked with the owners of Treat to sell their products across town and learn more about how ice cream is made.
Years later, in 2012, Sebastian opened his own ice cream manufacturing facility, but stayed in touch with the Mauseths and found a connection with Al Mauseth before he passed away in 2015.
The closure and sale of Treat’s facilities proves how difficult the grocery store can be without a pandemic, Sebastian says. He knows this firsthand after running a Treatbot location on San Pedro Square Market in downtown San Jose until the Covid-19 hit. While Sebastian decided to close the grocery hall last summer, the ice cream truck company and its roots are still alive, he says.
That’s lucky after a year of about 1 million California restaurant jobs being lost, although some have returned since lockdown orders were eased, according to the California Restaurant Association. Nationwide, every sixth restaurant closed after grocery sales fell by $ 240 billion compared to expected levels. This emerges from recently published data from the restaurant association.
Even so, Sebastian is optimistic about the future of Treat under Marianne’s leadership. “Marianne is excellent,” he says. “The owners are very future-oriented and want to do new things. I don’t think they’re just going to buy [Treat] and close it. “
The food ecosystem
Charlie Wilcox, co-owner of Marianne’s, says the Treat brand will continue to exist.
Marianne’s company has had a relationship with Treat since 1963 when the original Santa Cruz ice cream owner Sam Lieberman and Al Mauseth began trading tricks of the trade. Sam Lieberman used to say he learned everything he knew about making ice cream from Al Mauseth, Wilcox says.
“Al was a very good contributor to the Northern California ice cream industry and helped a lot of people,” says Wilcox. “Many of the recipes Marianne has used over the years are from recipes that Al developed and shared, and there were recipes that Sam developed and shared from Al – there are many parallels and relationships between the companies.”
Treat’s production line, recipes and some key employees will be moving to a brand new facility in Santa Cruz over the next 60 days. San Joseans can still get the new Treat products through Marianne’s Delivery, who has been distributing ice cream on the peninsula every day for more than 35 years.
“We want Treat to carry on like never before,” says Wilcox. “In terms of flavors and ingredients, everything is still covered. Marianne has a lot of respect for Treat and the Mauseths and what they created. “
Klem is grateful that she and her twins will still be able to get the quirky flavors that Treat specializes in, like Ube Purple Yam. But the closure of the San Jose facility “feels almost like it’s a forced retirement,” she says. “I hope it will be pushed forward in a way that will still work for you.”
Sebastian worries about what the sale of the company and the closure of the local plant will mean for the local business community in the long run.
“Treat was a local ice cream brand that was represented in local institutions and resulted in a stronger local food ecosystem that we are still trying to develop in San Jose,” says Sebastian. “These changes are difficult for the food ecosystem.”