Santa Cruz-based Marianne’s buys San Jose’s Treat Ice Cream

San Jose native Janikke Klem has a Friday tradition with her seven-year-old twins. Every week, the Willow Glen family goes out in search of new local dessert shops to try, whether that be a bakery, chocolate shop, or candy store.

But one of her long-adored local ice cream brands from her own childhood—which has become a family favorite with her twins—is Treat Ice Cream.

“My parents shopped at Lunardis and I remember them picking up these tubs of Treat ice cream, with the best flavors,” she said. “From the coffee to the seasonal pumpkin to the peppermint—it’s delicious ice cream that’s high quality and super creamy.”

The ice creamery has been a hometown favorite since 1951, with a manufacturing facility in San Jose’s Naglee Park. But on April 15, that facility will close as the company becomes part of the Santa Cruz-based Marianne’s family of ice cream purveyors.

The sale and facility closure isn’t entirely because of the Covid-19-induced recession, but the downturn didn’t help after years of struggling to make a profit and often coming up even, says Bob Mauseth, who took over the business in 2001 from his father.

Treat’s absence will add to the growing list of longtime restaurants and retailers the South Bay has lost over the past year, and it means one less player in San Jose’s food ecosystem, says Ryan Sebastian, owner and operator of San Jose-based Treatbot Ice Cream.

“The food ecosystem is so important to getting people off the ground, and Treat is very much a part of the food ecosystem—particularly around dessert,” he says. “Their products are all over the place, but they’re in places that are more locally owned or operated.”

To date, there is no final, official tally of the restaurants and retailers lost in the South Bay or even San Jose during the pandemic, but when there is, the list will include a slew of longtime staples.

Pizzetta 408, Vitamina and Vero Coffee all closed in the SoFA Market in downtown San Jose. Forager food hall and events center called it quits across the street from the SoFA Market and Chacho’s owners threw in the towel on the San Jose location without viable revenue streams, a series of break-ins and what they described as little support from local officials. Cinebar, the South Bay’s oldest watering hole, went up in literal flames mid-January.

New players, like The Guildhouse, a gamer lounge slated to be a “spiritual successor” to the former AFKgg Gamer Lounge, will also open in downtown this year, but before then, Good Spot, a new gastro lounge, is preparing for its grand opening in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Natural Sweet, a Colombian and Italian eatery, opened in the SoFA Market in February. Nirvana Soul coffee shop and Portugese fast-casual eatery, Petiscos, also opened nearby in downtown during the pandemic. The businesses are braving what are in normal times the first grueling years in operation, but now include oscillating lockdown measures due to the pandemic.

Klem likes seeing the new restaurateurs and entrepreneurs arrive, but says she hopes local lawmakers and residents will find ways to support the new businesses alongside the long-established institutions that have long made the region more colorful and enjoyable.

“That’s what breathes life and soul into our community, and provides opportunity for engagement,” she says. “While Treat might be going away, I hope people are still seeking their treats in the local neighborhood spots.”

‘Coming to an End’

Treat Ice Cream opened in 1951, launched by Alfred Mauseth, known to dedicated customers as “Mr. Treat.” It became a hidden, but beloved, gem on the edge of a small parking lot with no signage in San Jose’s Naglee Park neighborhood.

It’s an easy storefront to miss, longtime fans admit, but with rich flavors like Tin Roof Sundae, Black Raspberry Ripple and Cookie Mint Crunch, they say it was well worth the search. The Mauseths were proud of making their own chocolate and fudge in-house.

“We’re just a simple ice cream factory, and we’re a family business, with my parents starting the store and then my sister, brother and myself stepping in later,” says Bob Mauseth.

Despite the family history, Mauseth says he’s known for at least three years the family needed to discuss other options as profits dwindled and some siblings moved on to other jobs. Covid-19 impacted Treat, but it was just one small factor in the decision to close the Naglee Park warehouse and sign over the business to another local favorite, Marianne’s.

“I love having the business and I love running it,” Mauseth says. “But we knew it was coming to an end.”

Sebastian originally heard about Treat as a child when his aunt mentioned the “hidden place” where you could buy ice cream. In 2010, he launched his Treatbot karaoke ice cream truck and worked in tandem with Treat’s owners to sell their product across the city and learn more about making ice cream.

Years later, in 2012, Sebastian opened his own ice cream manufacturing facility, but kept in contact with the Mauseths, finding a connection with Al Mauseth before he died in 2015.

Treat’s facility closure and sale proves just how tough the food business can be, even without a pandemic, Sebastian says. He knows that first-hand after running a Treatbot location in San Pedro Square Market in downtown San Jose until the Covid-19 hit. While Sebastian decided to close the food hall location last summer, the company and its ice cream truck roots are still alive, he says.

That’s lucky following a year in which about 1 million California jobs were lost in the restaurant industry, though some have returned since lockdown orders have loosened, according to the California Restaurant Association. Nationwide, one in six restaurants closed after food service sales dipped $240 billion compared to expected levels, according to recently released data by the restaurant association.

Even so, Sebastian is optimistic about the future of Treat under the management of Marianne’s. “Marianne’s is excellent,” he says. “The owners are really forward-thinking and want to do new things. I don’t think they’re just going to buy [Treat] and close them.”

The Food Ecosystem

Indeed, Charlie Wilcox, co-owner of Marianne’s, says the Treat brand will carry on.

Marianne’s as a company has had a relationship with Treat since 1963, when the original owner of the Santa Cruz ice creamery, Sam Lieberman, and Al Mauseth began sharing tricks of the trade. Sam Lieberman used to say he learned everything he knew about making ice cream from Al Mauseth, Wilcox says.

“Al was a very giving person in the ice cream industry in Northern California, and helped out lots of folks,” Wilcox says. “Many of the recipes that Marianne’s used over the years came from recipes that Al originated and shared, and there were recipes Sam originated and shared back to Al—there’s a lot of parallels and relationship between the companies.”

Treat’s production line, recipes, and some key employees will move to a brand new facility in Santa Cruz within the next 60 days. San Joseans can still scoop up the new Treat products via Marianne’s delivery, which has distributed ice cream up the Peninsula daily for more than 35 years.

“We want to carry Treat forward the same as it ever was,” Wilcox says. “In terms of flavors and ingredients, everything will still be Treat. Marianne’s has a ton of respect for Treat and the Mauseths and what they’ve created.”

Klem is grateful she and her twins will still be able to get the quirky flavors that Treat has specialized in, like Ube Purple Yam. But the San Jose facility closure feels “almost like it’s a pushed-forced retirement,” she says. ”I’m hoping that it’s pushed in a way that still works for them.”

Sebastian worries what the sale of the company and the closure of the local facility will mean for the local business scene long term.

“Treat was a local ice cream brand that was in local institutions, and that made for a stronger local food ecosystem, which in San Jose we’re still trying to develop,” Sebastian says. “These changes are difficult for the food ecosystem.”

20 Comments

  1. thanks Cody

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    when are you going to come to the realization you are getting played?

    how much does rent have to be?

    how many small business people have to be run out of town?

    how much does a starter home have to be?

    Until you wake up and realize race is a distraction to keep you poor and stop buying the propaganda these people sling?

    Its too late for you – you’ve wasted your life – but if you have kids, where do you think this is heading?

    Utopia?

  2. Hmmm – hard to find retail front with minimal signage, no advertising or online presence…,,and we wonder why the business was struggling? Local or not there’s no place for mediocrity in business. I am also a fan of Treat ice cream but with limited distribution and no dedicated retail location this should be a lesson on how small local business is mismanaged and customer goodwill squandered all while clinging to the excuse “This is the way we’ve always done it”

  3. Mr. Rich,

    You have reading comprehension problems.

    There are no complaints in what I said, actually 2020 was my best financial year ever. And it was mostly due to counterproductive COVID reactions in Blue Cities and some to do with the Defund the Police Riots. I made more in 2020 than I did in the entire span of go-go years of 2011-2014 V-recovery (Thanks Obama for that too, couldn’t have done it with out you!) I can tell you first hand how people like me manipulate and profit from your resentment and lack of critical thinking due to your equal parts virtue signaling, ideological possession and uncontrollable hate. Rank and File Democrat adherents are easy marks, just ask Pelosi and Biden.

    Yet, I still waste my time coming on this site in an attempt to open your eyes in the most provocative terms (against my own self interest) to your self-immolation due to your weak minded susceptibility to cheap propaganda.

    You’re welcome.

  4. Oh THANK GOD! One of my favorite ice cream companies , Maryannes, is buying my other favorite ice cream company, Treat!
    I’m 57 and have been enjoying ice cream from both companies for as long as I can remember.
    Almost every sad or happy occasion called for a bowl of treat tin roof sundae.. and every holiday a specialty flavor.. peppermint stick fudge ripple, pumpkin pie.. I can’t think of one flavor I DONT LOVE!!
    Sunday drives to Santa Cruz harbor to check out the day’s catch w my fisherman dad, always included a stop at maryannes . Black licorice for him, and bubble gum for me!
    Although it breaks my heart to lose yet another San Jose family owned business, I’m confident that Marianne’s will continue running Treat the way it has always been run, since they too have a legacy of quality , creativity, and family tradition.
    Thanks for hanging on Maryannes!
    We appreciate you!!

  5. Cinebar😢😢🍹
    I guess I’m at the sentimental age.. saying goodbye to old friends is never easy.
    Thanks for the memories.

  6. @Ramon, I agree. Why would anyone think it was a good idea to have a “secret” ice cream shop? I’ve heard of Treat but I didn’t know where it is–and I’ve lived in the county since 2010, in San Jose less than 2 miles from there since 2016. I had a vague idea they were wholesale or packed private label. Not that I go out to eat ice cream often (vs. buying a tub on sale at Grocery Outlet or FoodMaxx) but I’m not surprised they’re having a hard time turning a profit.

  7. Treat never seemed able to understand that people LOVED their tin roof sundae. We’d go to PW (before it was Zanottos) and 2/3 of the time there would be plenty of Treat vanilla, plenty of Treat strawberry but NO tin roof sundae.
    Finally gave up trying.
    A company that had lots of potential but evidently no business sense.
    Ok Goldstein. Tell me why I’m wrong.

  8. Wasn’t really a “secret ice cream shop” It was the factory where they made the ice cream. Yes, during business hours you could wander in the back door and they would sell you freshly made tubs of Treat ice cream (cash only). I think the ice cream was mostly sold under the Lunardi’s store brand label. I remember once I stopped to grab some ice cream and had my 6yr old son with me he asked if he could come in with me to see where they made the ice cream. The guy working there was gracious enough to show my son around and even gave him a sample fresh out the ice cream machine. Good people and great ice cream. Sad to see them go. Thanks for the memories Treat!

  9. I worked for Treat from mid to late 1970’s. Al was a great boss, and was there for a few of my own life milestones, the births of both my children, and the purchase of our first home. Through Al’s counsel and example I learned how to work, how to be a good employee, and a good husband father. Those lessons served me well throughout my life.

  10. We are humbled and happy to be stewards of the Treat tradition moving forward. We absolutely love the fact that Marianne’s and Treat have been friends and allies for more than 50 years, going back to the 1950’s.
    Al (Treat’s founder) and Sam (Marianne’s leading light from 1958-2012) were giants in the the development of super-premium ice cream. All ice cream lovers can do well to offer a nod of thanks to them. We are excited to live up the incredibly high standards they set. We look forward to keeping the Treat tradition in the family and serving today’s fans and the new fans to come for generations! Thank you for your kind wishes and words and Thank You to the Mauseth family for the honor of carrying on from here.

  11. Clarification, Treat is in Roosevelt Park not Naglee, which is on Nagle, 17th street side of Coyote Creek. Definitely will be missed:(

  12. I grew up on North 19th! Yet I never knew this place existed. I’ve seen the ice cream in stores. I hate that we’re losing our uniqueness. It’s another little slice of SJ that’s disappearing.

  13. Treat is the successor to Hillcrest Creamery. It was at Hillcrest where Treat’s Alfred Mauseth learned everything he knew about the craft of making ice cream from Swiss immigrant and proprietor Joseph P. Forni. Mr. Forni owned and operated Hillcrest Creamery for several decades, well before and after 1951 when Alfred claimed to have started the Treat operation.

    Hillcrest Creamery included a fountain that Forni operated on East Santa Clara St. between 17th and 19th. See the link below from another SJI piece on old time downtown San Jose creameries, and check out the comments section for shared experiences by those who enjoyed their visits to the Hillcrest Creamery fountain.

    Ever since Mauseth assumed operations and changed the name to “Treat” after Forni retired, the articles that would occasionally appear about Treat consistently omitted any reference to Mr. Forni as the father of what would become Treat Ice Cream and effectively erased all previous history behind this beloved and longtime San Jose business.

    Without Forni, Treat would never have existed nor would Mauseth have learned the process of making legendary ice cream from a Swiss master who at the very least deserves an honorable mention for providing Mauseth with a successful career as purveyor of a product that has brought joy to so many, and that will now be carried on by Marianne’s for years to come.

  14. Thanks to this article, I learned about the “secret” Treat’s ice creamery in Roosevelt neighborhood (not Naglee Park) and I decided to drop by today after lunch to purchase some ice cream (a tub of cookie mint crunch) before the opportunity might be lost. Outstanding stuff. Among the best I’ve ever had.

  15. Back in the late 70’s, early 80’s…… Melvin’s Sundae Shop over at White and Aborn…. Used to sell scoops of Treat until my arms ached. Good times, great company. Sad to see them go, but glad to see that their legacy is living on….. -Greg (the Atari guy)

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