Berkeley’s soft scoop spot Sketch to close for good

Sketch soft serve cacao nib ice cream with olive oil and sea salt. Photo: lelseyk
Sketch soft-serve cacao nib ice cream with olive oil and sea salt: the Berkeley ice cream shop will close July 6. Photo: lesleyk

It’s the end of the road for Sketch. The popular soft-serve ice cream shop on Berkeley’s Fourth Street will close its doors for good on Sunday, July 6.

Eric Shelton, co-owner of the store with his wife Ruthie Planar-Shelton, said the reason is purely personal. “It’s a decision we have made as a family,” he said. “We don’t want to sacrifice more time spent with our daughter and any other kids we may have down the road.”

The couple, who both have a fine dining culinary background, opened the current store, their second, at 2080 Fourth St. in the Fourth & U complex two years ago. They opened the original Sketch two blocks north of their current location, also on Fourth Street, in 2004 when Planar-Shelton was pregnant with their daughter Audrey. That store, with its vintage cart outside, was open for five years before the pair closed it in 2009, citing similar reasons to the ones they expressed this week: a desire to put family first. At the time, the store was one of the first small-batch, organic ice cream purveyors in the area.

Ice cream scoopers on the wall of Sketch which is closing for good on July 6, 2014. Photo: Sketch
Ice cream scoopers on the wall of Sketch ice cream on Berkeley’s Fourth Street which is closing for good July 6, 2014. Photo: Sketch

Shelton said the plan is to continue leasing the space and use it for catering commitments, probably until the end of the year, but there will be “no more Sketch ice cream.”


Sketch was known for its enticing frozen treats that always used fresh seasonal fruits and were offered with a selection of toppings. Options on the menu recently have included burnt caramel, Earl Grey tea, peach-apricot, plum sorbet, watermelon granita, and fudge ‘sicles.’ Toppings include salted caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, sea salt, olive oil, fruit compote, candied nuts and candied cocoa nibs.

The couple also sell a selection of homemade pastries and candies — including shortbread, olive oil cake, chocolate pudding cake, savory empanadas and salted pecan toffee — and serve Sightglass coffee.

Baked goods at Sketch. Photo: courtesy Sketch
Baked goods at Sketch. Photo: courtesy Sketch

Sketch chose to make soft-serve not as a novelty but for consistency’s sake, the founders told Berkeleyside in August 2012. “It keeps the ice cream at the right temperature, anything too cold and it freezes the palate,” Shelton said then. “And if there’s too much fat it coats the tongue and that affects the taste too. We make our ice cream with low fat, very little air, and just the right temperature.”

The couple posted the news of the decision to shutter on their Facebook page June 27, and it was reported first by the East Bay Express.

They announced the news with a video “of their memories,” below.


The same day, in another Facebook post, they wrote: “We have poured all our heart, love, soul and energy into Sketch since its conception in 2003. We love what we do and we have worked our butts off doing something we love, but know that it is because of YOU who have supported us that have allowed us to continue our craft for the last 10 years.

“So to the many of you whom we have had the pleasure of getting to know and who have graciously frequented our shop throughout the years, we want to say THANK YOU! From the bottom of our hearts, we really thank you! We are truly humbled by your love and loyalty and your presence will be missed.

Original Sketch ice cream store on Fourth Street , with its vintage ice cream cart.  Photo: Brett
The original Sketch ice cream store on Fourth Street, with its vintage ice cream cart. Photo: Brett

“Our eyes are filling up with tears just knowing how official it will all soon be closing our doors and saying our final goodbyes to our ‘baby,’ but our hope is that through this our daughter will see the importance of prioritizing family.

We kindly ask for your understanding as this was not a decision that was made lightly.”

The couple has always made a point of running the business themselves — “we’re entrepreneurs who can’t switch off,” said Shelton — so there are no employees who are losing jobs. That fact also partly accounts for the store’s relatively limited hours: it was open Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.


Shelton said the first time they closed Sketch, in 2009, while personal motivations were the main motivation, the recession played a part too.

“The economy was tanking. There were seven vacancies on the street,” he said referring to Fourth Street. This time, he said, it’s “100% about family.” “I know there will be rumors about why we made the decision. But we are not bankrupt. This isn’t a financial decision,” he said.

He said the relationships his family has built over the years with customers have been very special. “We have really valued the day-in day-out relationships we have built with so many of our customers, watching some of them grow up from toddlers to teenagers,” he said.

If you want a last chance to enjoy Sketch’s offerings, it is currently serving yogurt, burnt caramel, vanilla, and Earl Grey soft-serve, fudge and peach-apricot ‘sicles, and watermelon granita through Sunday, July 6.

Update, 07.03.14: If you want to visit Sketch before it closes, note their opening hours through Sunday July 7:

Sketch hours
Photo: Emilie Raguso

Related:
Sketch ice creamery returns to Berkeley’s Fourth Street (08.24.12)
Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses (06.12.12)
Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses (03.20.12)
The verdict is in: Berkeley’s best ice cream (and gelato) (07.27.11)

Catch up with other recent Nosh East Bay ice cream stories, including Mr. Dewie’s, Smitten, and Bootleg Creamery