There’s a lot to love about Dear Bella Creamery—their pink scoop shop in Los Angeles, their unique plant-based ice creams, the fact that they just launched nationwide shipping so that people outside of LA can also try their sweet creations (more on that later)—but the thing that jumps out at me having interviewed the passionate and intelligent women behind the brand is the friendship at the root of it all.
Alice Cherng and Belinda Wei are the founders of Dear Bella Creamery, a premium, all-natural, plant-based ice cream shop based in Los Angeles. Cherng worked as an accountant for many years before following her passion and working as a line cook at a vegan restaurant called Cafe Gratitude. It was there that she met Wei (who was the executive pastry chef at the time) and their friendship began. They bonded over their shared Taiwanese heritage and the fact that they’re both vegan as they tried all the vegan restaurants and dishes around town. Back then, vegan ice cream (especially good vegan ice creams that went beyond basic flavors and sorbets) was hard to come by, and they saw an opportunity to fill a void in the market.
Dear Bella Creamery began in Wei’s home kitchen, and over the course of six months the pair ran more than 60 tests to perfect their vegan ice cream base. Both Cherng and Wei had full-time jobs then and envisioned Dear Bella Creamery as a weekend project where they’d serve their homemade ice cream out of a cart and see what happened. Instead, Cherng’s friend told her about a vacant space next to the restaurant they owned. A brick-and-mortar ice cream shop wasn’t part of their original plan, but they decided to check out the space anyways and ended up signing a lease. “It was completely unplanned,” Cherng told me. “We were totally unprepared and did everything DIY, but we somehow ended up opening our little ice cream shop just three months after getting the keys.” And the rest, as they say, was history.
Much has happened since Dear Bella Creamery first opened their doors in April 2017. They’ve developed a fan following for their delicious vegan ice creams, launched national delivery this month, and have plans to open a second location in Costa Mesa, California, in June. Shipping ice cream across the country isn’t cheap, but Cherng and Wei see it as a way to bring AAPI flavors into the mainstream market and get their ice cream in the hands of fans that don’t live near a scoop shop. “People all over the country and even the world ask us all the time if we can open a shop near them, but opening an ice cream shop is very expensive and time-consuming,” Cherng said. “We felt that the only feasible way to get our products to people beyond LA is through shipping.” Not only are their customers asking for it, Cherng and Wei feel that even in a saturated market like ice cream, Dear Bella Creamery is unique: interesting flavors, artisanal made, dairy-free (and largely gluten- and nut-free), all-natural and no artificial ingredients. “I believe we have a fantastic product that you can’t find in grocery stores,” Cherng said.
Speaking of flavors, Dear Bella Creamery has a lot of fun and creative ones. These include Cookie Monsta, an all-time customer favorite that gets its blue color from blue spirulina, Taiwanese Pineapple Cake, an ice cream version of a popular dessert from Wei’s father’s hometown of Taichung City, Taiwan, (and her favorite flavor), and Coffee Chip, Cherng’s favorite flavor featuring coffee ice cream, shaved chocolate and mini chocolate chips. All of their ice creams, fillings and toppings (like hot fudge, sunflower butter cups and chocolate-coated “honeecomb”) are made from scratch and gluten-free.
For Cherng and Wei, inspiration comes from many places. “Alice and I are constantly going out and trying new restaurants, or revisiting restaurants that have new items on the menu,” Wei said. At a recent dinner, a woman baking cookies told them that one of her most popular flavors is white chocolate peanut butter, and Cherng told Wei to add it to their list of potential flavors to try. “We have an ongoing list of about 300 different ideas,” Wei said. They also get flavor ideas from trade shows, seeing new products on supermarket shelves and their Asian heritage.
After five years in business, much has changed: rebranding their business, sharpening their business acumen, and becoming more targeted and focused in their storytelling about the company and their products. Some things, like a commitment to delivering a high-quality product to their customers, have stayed the same despite supply chain challenges and pricing issues resulting from the pandemic. “Our mission, the reason we started this business, hasn’t changed,” Cherng said. “We want to use ice cream as a vehicle to connect, and that includes not only our customers but our employees as well. We want to inspire moments of connectivity and joy.”