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Brothers Ari Cohen, left, and Andrew Cohen, who founded the popular dairy-free ice cream brand Mr. Dewie’s, recently partnered with the Brazilian restaurant recently partnered with Brazilian restaurant Paulista in Glenview to have their ice cream served at the restaurant. (Courtesy of Esther and David Photography)

Mr. Dewie’s expanding dairy-free ice cream brand in Bay Area

OAKLAND — Mr. Dewie’s, the popular non-dairy ice cream, is looking to go a little more local.

The Bay Area brand, founded and run by brother duo Ari and Andrew Cohen, first made waves as a vegan ice cream made from cashew milk. The vegan ice cream was distributed and sold in grocery stores like Whole Foods from 2012 to 2016.

But, in 2016, after realizing they could control only so many factors in wholesale ice cream, they decided to become more local. They’ve pulled their ice cream from many retail shelves, and instead opened a number of local creameries and are also offering their ice cream at a few Oakland restaurants.

“We recognized that the opportunity to do this locally,” Ari Cohen said. “For me, it was an opportunity to now really connect with the community. We changed the business model and got out of the large distribution network and brought it back to the bay, which is where we’re from.”

Ari Cohen said he was first inspired to create a vegan ice cream about 10 years ago. He had always been a big cereal and milk fan, he said, so he was heartbroken when he discovered he was lactose intolerant.

“Here I was dairy intolerant, I was a cereal guy, I loved cold cereal and milk so I couldn’t do that anymore,” he said. “So I started making a pecan and date nut milk that was great over hot cereal like oatmeal. That nut milk was the precursor to my first ice cream, a salted pecan.”

The two brothers opened their first scoop shop on Solano Avenue in Albany last year, called Mr. Dewie’s Cashew Creamery, and now have a second that recently opened at the Emeryville Public Market. Cohen said the creameries have also allowed them to expand their flavor offerings as well.

The duo has also recently partnered with Brazilian restaurant Paulista, 4239 Park Blvd. in Glenview, to have their ice cream served there.

“We can do many more flavors, it’s just a unique opportunity and it’s a much better way to go,” Cohen said of their decision to get back to their roots.

Cohen, who lives in Glenview, said flavor testing still happens at his home and the ice cream is manufactured in San Leandro.

“It’s very difficult being in the grocery store distribution,” he said. “It’s really more about producing ice cream in pints and getting it on pints and sending it out and having no connection and having no control over it.”

He added that cashew milk can be finicky and is best consumed when at a particular temperature. Having their own brick and mortar stores and choosing their distributors has allowed them to have some control over the temperature their ice cream is kept at, which he said means happier customers.

“One of the things about being in our own shops is we have control over the temperature of the dipping cabinet, so it’s firm and creamy and easily scoopable,” he said.

Cohen met the restaurant owners of Paulista, Jesse Madway and Alex Yamamoto, through Glenview Elementary where their children go to school together. It was from that friendship that the decision to partner with Paulista was born. Paulista now has an ice cream cabinet where customers can order ice cream.

“They said ‘You really should bring Mr. Dewie’s in there,’” Cohen said. “The owners came down and tested our ice creams and just loved them. Really it was about taking a look at what Glenview really needed as a community. It (Paulista) really is a community oriented restaurant cafe and they brought in our ice cream.”

Cohen said he’s excited to look into future partnerships with restaurants and to also expand the number of creameries and the potential to make it a franchise.

And for those looking in grocery stores, Mr. Dewie’s can still be found in about 12 locations around the Bay Area, including at the original location, Farmer Joe’s Marketplace at 3426 Fruitvale Ave, Oakland.

by Sarah Tan
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