If someone walks down Shattuck Avenue, past Shattuck Cinemas and Starbucks, they’ll soon come across one more empty shop with blank paper covering the windows. Here, just a couple months earlier, a bustling ice cream shop stood. John’s Ice Cream closed on November 26, 2019.
During John’s Ice Cream’s ten years of inhabiting the small storefront on Shattuck Avenue, sandwiched between Papa John’s Pizza and Hotel Shattuck Plaza, it was well known for one particular thing: its reasonable pricing.
In the middle of Berkeley’s gourmet and expensive food scene, John’s Ice Cream stood out with its one dollar per scoop deal. “I couldn’t find [similar prices] anywhere around Berkeley, and it was really cheap so I just thought, why would I go anywhere else?” said Maxwell Jamison, a freshman at Berkeley High School (BHS) and a past John’s Ice Cream enthusiast.
Many BHS students are disappointed that John’s Ice Cream closed because it holds a special place in their hearts. Due to its ideal location, pricing, and range of flavors, younger kids bought ice cream there and formed positive associations that stayed with them.
Clio Monrad, a junior in Academic Choice (AC), said, “John’s was special because I would go there with my brother and dad during the summer.” Jamison similarly felt nostalgic because John’s Ice Cream was there for as long as he could remember.
People walking through Downtown Berkeley over the years were occasionally saddened when passing by the ice cream shop and seeing slight rises in price. Over its ten years in business, slowly, the price for a single scoop went from one dollar to $1.75. Monrad reflected, “It was sad [that John’s closed], but not surprising since they had been increasing their prices by 25 cents every few months.”
These price rises were the results of increased rents in Berkeley. While this is an issue for residents, it is also a significant obstacle for businesses. This was possibly the case with John’s Ice Cream. Marco Rodriguez, the assistant manager of Ben & Jerry’s on Center Street and also a BHS alumnus, said he believes that rent increases must have been the source of the shop’s closure. “Definitely rent going up is bad for all businesses,” added Rodriguez.
Not only is this issue relevant in John’s Ice Cream’s case, but many stores in downtown Berkeley are going through similar changes like closure or relocation. Rodriguez gave examples of other stores pushed out by unaffordable rent, such as Sliver, which moved from Center Street to a nearby address on Shattuck Avenue. Unfortunately, Rodriguez lost many costumers after Sliver closed because of the decrease in foot traffic.
That being said, Rodriguez was pleased with the recent improvement in customers following the closing of John’s Ice Cream. “As the assistant manager of this location, it’s really good for me because business goes up. It shows we had so many people going to John’s that are now coming here, so that’s great. More business for us,” he said.
The store’s shutdown is likely a result of the changes affecting Downtown Berkeley. Rodriguez believes that the specific block of Shattuck that John’s Ice Cream was located on may be turning into something new. Noticeably, the only businesses still running on that strip are Shattuck Cinemas and Papa John’s Pizza, which are both associated with established chains. Housing is a potential future for that block, Rodriguez explained.
New eateries are also a possibility of what will replace the vacated spaces. As trends become outdated and new ones arrive, the stores in the area come and go with them. “We are getting a lot of international type foods that appeal to the Bay Area, or boba places,” Rodriguez said.
Although you can always hop into the Brentwood location of John’s Ice Cream, its closure here is an unfortunate loss for all of the Bay Area, especially for BHS students and for the Downtown community. Monrad concluded, “Replacing stores like John’s Ice Cream and GameStop will change the dynamic of Downtown Berkeley.”