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Hampden's only ice cream parlor planned to open this month

We all scream for ice cream, which leaves David and Laura Alima sitting pretty as they prepare to open their new ice cream parlor, The Charmery, in Hampden later this month.

Located on the ground floor of the old Chestnut AID Pharmacy, 801 W. 36th St., straddling the burgeoning corner of Chestnut Avenue and West 36th, the store will be one of two businesses in the building, along with an upstairs tattoo parlor and art studio run by Dave Wah, who was featured in the Messenger in March.

The couple have set an opening date of July 20.

The look will be whimsical, with tables and local artwork on the walls, the Alimas said.

A Baltimore City zoning board hearing was scheduled for July 9 to review the couple's request for outdoor seating.

The Charmery, the only ice cream parlor in the area, is also part of a business boomlet in the 3500 and 3600 blocks of Chestnut, where it meets the 800 block of The Avenue. The Charmery will join Bazaar, a newly opened curiosities and oddities shop a few doors down on Chestnut; Paulie Gee's, a planned New York-style pizzeria in the former Hampden Republican Club across the street; and several existing businesses on Chestnut, including the longtime home and gift boutique In Watermelon Sugar, the pet supply store Howl, the antiques store Antique Exchange, and the restaurant Grano's Emporio.

"The Avenue is extending," said Benn Ray, president of the Hampden Village Merchants Association, noting that there are new businesses, too, on Falls Road and Hickory Avenue near West 36th Street. "The Avenue isn't just 36th Street anymore."

"We want to be for the Hampden community. We want to be a part of Hampden," said David Alima. He said the couple live in Canton, but are considering moving to this area to be withing walking distance of their ice cream shop, and have already joined the merchants' association.

For the Alimas, both 33, opening The Charmery will be the realization of their longtime dreams as they celebrate their 15th year as a couple and fifth year of marriage.

"I've wanted to open a place like a restaurant since I was 12 years old," said Laura Alima. She grew up in Columbia, graduated from Cornell University's hotel and restaurant hospitality program and previously worked as a manager at Old Ebbitt Grill, a restaurant in Washington, events marketer for the Gallo winery in Sonoma County, Calif., and marketing director for Chef's Expressions, a Timonium-based caterer.

David Alima, a Pikesville native, used to work for a reggae record label in California. He had none of Laura's food and hospitality service ambitions when he was a bachelor. His closest association with ice cream, he said, was that he liked to eat it.

"From the moment I met her, I knew our future was to open something in the food business," he said.

The ice cream dream began when Laura graduated from college and her sister gave her an ice cream maker. Laura tried to make ice cream, but "she screwed it up," David said. He took an interest and soon, "I started making ice cream whenever I could. I love making ice cream."

"We've been talking about ice cream for 10 years," Laura said.

Now, the Alimas and their 10 part-time employees will have more to work with than a home ice cream maker. Their shop, still under renovation last week, features an Emery Thompson batch freezer, an under-the-counter refrigerator for milk and cream, and a mirror, hanging from the ceiling, that will be tilted so that customers can watch the ice cream being made.

The ice cream will be made with natural dairy products from Trickling Springs, a creamery in Chambersburg, Pa.

"We're focused on making the purest ice cream we can, with the purest possible ingredients," David said.

Also already installed is a dipping cabinet for all your favorite flavors — and some you've never heard of, because the Alimas dreamed them up.

There's one with "Mike's Hot Honey," a spicy condiment they found at the original Paulie Gee's pizzeria in New York, on which the one in Hampden will be modeled. Another flavor will be cookies and cream, but with a twist; the cookies will be Berger cookies.

"We want this to feel very much like a Baltimore ice cream shop," David said.

There will also be a lemon stick sorbet; a Fat Elvis combination of peanut butter, banana and marshmallow swirl; a vegan coconut milk ice cream; and an Old Bay caramel flavor, their take on salted caramel.

"We can't call ourselves a Baltimore ice cream shop and not have an Old Bay flavor," he said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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