Smack in the middle of the new Charmery Ice Cream Factory is a white, door-less, ice-cream truck. According to David Alima — co-owner alongside wife Laura Alima — that truck was his biggest mistake. He recalls buying it with the intention of having his own ice cream truck and then the devastating realization that it could not drive uphill. Regardless of its lack of functionality, it serves as a wonderful centerpiece for the spacious ice cream shop/factory.
Unlike the truck, Charmery itself has taken off, establishing its own sweet spot in the Baltimore market.
The new factory reflects that spirit and is decorated with all kinds of fun contraptions, including a kid-sized rocking space ship that will take you to space for just 25 cents. It was created by Baltimore based artist and Charmery friend, Matt Muirhead. Even better are the factory’s sparkly table tops, decorated with colorful sprinkles.
“It feels like this collection of great pieces. It feels like our five years’ worth of knowing and meeting all these amazing artists and woodworkers and steelworkers. They’ve all kind of come together to help us create a really unique space,” David says. He is exuberant as he shows off the various works of art that bring the place to life. Adding to the scene is the overwhelming, yet pleasant, scent of chocolate that fills the space from the kitchen in the back.
“We knew that if we had to grow at all it would have to be production level because we were making all of our ice cream out of Hampden and we couldn’t grow in that space,” he explains. “When Union Craft Brewing came to us and told us about this project, we (knew) we could have our production space and then a retail space, too.”
David is referred to as the “Willy Wonka” of The Charmery for good reason. Some of his flavors are so wonderfully unique (and Maryland inspired) that customers can’t help but try them. Take the Old Bay Caramel, for example, two flavors that are not traditionally associated with each other in ice cream. (Bonus on the local angle: All ingredients are locally sourced.)
“The flavor of the caramel overpowers the celery salt in the Old Bay just enough,” says Laura. Tour goers checking out the new factory space nod in momentary, close-eyed bliss as they enjoy a sample. But the real crowd pleaser is the Queso Frito, which features real, crushed Fritos chips, that blows them all away, myself included.
David continues the tour, through double doors into the back where the magic — the ice cream making — happens. In the new location, all of the product will be made for both the Hampden and Towson shops.
“We already have this rush to hire a bunch of people for the summer. With three shops it is certainly challenging, but Baltimore has a wealth of great people. It’s just a matter of getting out there and reaching them,” David says. “There are good people who want to work, and we have the luxury here that we get to hire for one thing, and one thing only, and that’s being nice. We can teach everything else.”
What the Alimas like most about the business is how Baltimore and Maryland are represented in their work.
“Ice cream is such a universal thing that brings people together and that’s what I love most about it,” David says.
The Charmery Ice Cream Factory opens on Monday, July 2.
Five flavors to try (from one writer with a very difficult assignment …)
- Madras Graham Pecan
- Old Bay Caramel
- Passionfruit (a vegan option)
- Queso Frito
- Maryland Mud