For Laura and David Alima, owners of The Charmery in Hampden, ice cream isn’t just a treat, it is destiny.
“I guess we were connected by desserts early on,” said David. “Because the first thing I ever did to try to impress [Laura] was I ate an entire chocolate cream pie.”
The pair, who married five years ago, met at Bel Air’s Habonim Dror Camp Moshava, where they were both counselors. Fifteen year later, they are the owners of a new thriving ice cream shop with a local twist.
Over the course of the past two months, the shop has made a name for itself with its funky Baltimore-inspired flavors. From Old Bay caramel to Berger cookies and cream and lemon stick, one look at the menu tells customers they are not in Kansas anymore.
“This shop could only exist in Baltimore,” David said. “You look at our walls, it’s all Baltimore artists, you look at our façade, it is Baltimore artists.”
He has even approached a few local bands and artists about working with him to develop new flavors.
“I want to work with people who don’t necessarily come from the culinary world,” David said, pointing out that he did not come from the culinary world either. “It would just be fun.”
From very early in their relationship, the couple had dreams of opening an ice cream shop.
“For 10 years, we had been talking about it as a business,” said Laura. “Everywhere we went, we would go to ice cream shops and be critical.”
They spent years taking notes on other parlors in other cities, making a record of what did and didn’t work at those shops, before they opened The Charmery.
“When you look at our costs, when you look at our flavors, it comes from many, many years and many notes,” said David.
For the Alimas, destiny was fulfilled on July 20, when they opened the doors of their store in a former pharmacy, which has special meaning, as both Laura’s and David’s grandfathers attended pharmacy school together in New Haven, Conn. They had noticed the vacant pharmacy before, located at the corner of Chestnut Avenue and 36th Street, but they were committed to another location in the neighborhood. It wasn’t until that location fell through that they noticed the pharmacy space had gone on the market.
“It’s one of those fated moments where you realize you’re exactly in the place you should be,” said Laura.
The Hampden neighborhood, the Alimas said, is a great place to open a business such as The Charmery. In an area known for small, independent businesses, the community has really welcomed them.
“There is such a camaraderie between the [business owners],” said Laura.
So far, the shop has partnered with Spro Coffee and Union Craft Brewing to create flavors infused with local ingredients, and it has plans to work with Paulie Gee’s pizza shop, when it opens its Hampden location, to create desserts for the restaurant.
Laura, a graduate of Cornell University’s hospitality management program, works full time as the marketing director at Chef’s Expressions catering company and spends evenings at the shop while David works at the shop full time. David describes Laura as the brains of the operation; he acts as more of a creative director of flavors. She has the hospitality experience, said David, and he has a love of ice cream experimentation.
“Without her, I just have ice cream,” he said.
Earlier this month, the shop featured a limited-edition caramel apple flavor in honor of Rosh Hashanah and a duckpin pale ale flavor for Labor Day. In the future, they plan to experiment with a charoset flavor for Passover.
“It’s our place. We can do whatever we want,” said David. “It’s so cool.”
Here’s the scoop
The Charmery featured ice cream in the flavor of apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah. What other flavors might the Jewish people expect this year?
Etrog sorbet (hurry in now!)
Dates and honey ice cream
Sufganiyot ice cream (a donut base with a raspberry swirl)
Charoset (Manischewitz wine base with apples, dates and nuts swirled in)