Kevin Cody

Cream’wich in Manhattan Beach reinvents the ice cream sandwich

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Cream’wich’s Jessica Jordan and Zac Rothman at 7-11.headquarters in Texas.

by Tony Cordi

The best-selling cookie of all time is the modest Oreo with its two chocolate wafers and sweet cream filling. It was created over 100 years ago as an imitation of a competing product made by Hydrox and now generates over $3 billion in annual sales. Even though Oreo wasn’t the first company to sell these types of cookies, it combined formidable marketing, packaging and production strength to dominate Hydrox in sales. The owners of Cream’wich, created in Manhattan Beach five years ago, have similar aspirations with their increasingly popular product.

The ice cream sandwich also first appeared a century ago. Today, over 1.5 billion ice cream sandwiches are consumed in the U.S. every year. Cream’wich co-owners, Jessica Jordan and Zac Rothman set out to improve on the sandwich that Rothman enjoyed at a bakery in Westwood while attending UCLA as an undergraduate.

Jordan and Rothman met in early 2011 while working together to open of FishBar in North Manhattan Beach. Months later Jordan, who served as FishBar’s executive chef, was also tasked with overseeing the integration of Cupcakes Couture into Manhattan Beach Creamery by Rothman’s. Her experience as a cake decorator made it easy for her to feel at home in the Creamery. In late 2012, she experimented with combining the ice cream of the Creamery with cookies they baked. They soon had “lines out the door” for the then unnamed ice cream sandwiches. It was like having a series of affirming focus groups, for which they are “forever grateful to the residents of Manhattan Beach,” Jordan said.

For many entrepreneurs, the satisfaction of this success might have sufficed, especially if they had full-time gigs like Jordan and Rothman had with the FishBar and other projects. Nonetheless, what followed might best be described as a series of challenging events that now makes for some humorous anecdotes about the perils of trying to ramp up a business with limited experience and support.

It might be hyperbole, but they use the expression “relentless perseverance” to describe what has been required to make Cream’wich available across the country.  Jordan noted, “There has been no instant gratification,” unlike the satisfaction of offering new products at the Manhattan Beach Creamery and FishBar.

They brainstormed to come up with the Cream’wich brand and then worked tirelessly to get the product out there. Boccato’s Groceries, a longtime staple in Hermosa Beach, became their first retailer. They then stretched their reach during countless trips. They hammered out production challenges and eventually shifted their distribution efforts to a third party.

A turning point was meeting with the corporate purchasers at 7-Eleven in Dallas, Texas in late 2013. They confessed that at times they felt as though they were in over their heads. The business culture of the beach cities tends to be a bit relaxed compared to corporate America. However, hooking up with 7-Eleven has merits when you consider they have over 56,000 locations in 18 countries.  

Five Cream’wich flavors are now available in 1,500 stores across six states. Their small team is gearing up to get to 5,000 stores within a few years. They make thousands of sandwiches daily and attribute their success to a solid work ethic and unwavering perseverance.

“It makes it so much easier to sell something when you have such strong belief in your product,” Rothman said.

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