Licking The Ice Cream Competition


AFTER MONTHS OF SPECULATION, it appears Cold Stone Creamery won’t be moving into Montclair.

The word is there aren’t enough ice cream eaters to make it profitable. Or could it be we’ve got too many sweet shops in town as it is?

But just the mention of another chain in the village brought a landslide of comment to the Town Crier’s e-mail box. Small business owners Marian O’Brien and Keith Whitaker wrote: “Too many times now, all over the country, the chains win and it is heartbreaking and creates homogenization of communities.”

They cite a number of studies used to convince small towns, their zoning boards and city councils that they shouldn’t turn their backs on the traditional, small-town businesses.

Montclair merchant Debi Echlin (A Great Good Place For Books) agrees: “Having a grouping of small independent shops is much of what contributes to the charm. I am constantly dismayed that our landlords have little concern for the quality of life of their tenants and the residents they serve.”

One of Echlin’s goals is to help folks understand that every time they open their pocketbook, they are voting for something. In this case, it’s chains versus small, independent retailers.

E-MAIL BAG: People are talking (hopefully not with their mouths full) about the new gourmet restaurant, Montclair Bistro.

I’ve even had feedback from folks in Orinda, where they know a little something about fine dining, themselves. Then there’s the e-mail from reader Vera Louie, who says her party’s conversation at the Bistro lasted well beyond dinner, the other night.

“They (the restaurant staff) kindly asked if they could buy us an after dinner drink at the bar in order to free up the table for other customers. We were definitely impressed.”

DINING ADDENDUM: On the subject of restaurants, a reader approached me with this comment about my Jan. 7 article on Pastino’s, on Park Boulevard in the Glenview: “You talked about the great service but mentioned very little about the food.”

While I did say the food was great, I should have said authentic too, since it’s every bit as good as the food my Italian husband grew up enjoying. And though pasta gets a bad rap on the low carb diet — when you find a good comfort food, I say “stick with it.”

AMERICAN DREAM: There’s nothing so grand as a parade, and the Rose Parade is one of the biggest.

So you can imagine how Montclair mom Patricia Absalom felt when she was invited to ride on the Starbuck’s Coffee float New Year’s Day. The float featured Starbuck’s Costa Rican Coffee and Patricia is from Costa Rica. She and her husband Ken, and sons Ashley and Julian, were flown to Los Angeles and wined and dined for four days during the festivities.

And how were they picked for the honor? Much like the Lana Turner story, Patricia was discovered in a popular place, casually sipping a beverage. But instead of Schwab’s on Hollywood and Vine, the setting was Starbucks on Mountain Boulevard — in Montclair.

ZOO UPDATE: And the winner is … Tulsa, Okla. Yes, Tulsa has won Microsoft Game’s “Best Zoo in the Country” competition, sadly leaving Oakland behind. Still, our hometown zoo finished in the top 15, which leads director Joel Parrott to reflect on how far the Oakland Zoo has come.

“It wasn’t that long ago we were called one of the worst in the country,” he says, “and I’m honored to have been considered for this award.” The Tulsa Zoo gets a $25,000 grant for animal care and operations.

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