Peeking out from the boarded-up front of the building at the corner of University and Shattuck avenues in downtown Berkeley, the red letters spell “SNOOPY’S” – a sign from a long-ago business frozen in time.
Snoopy’s Ice Cream & Cookies, named after the chocolate-chip-cookie-craving beagle in the “Peanuts” comic strip, operated in the early 1980s at 2101 University Ave. Construction on the building by Mill Creek Residential Trust, which is building 205 apartments between Shattuck and Oxford, revealed the Snoopy’s sign.
Tracy Ross, a Berkeley resident, noticed the sign and asked Nosh if we had the scoop on Snoopy’s, saying, “Maybe Berkeleyside can write a story about a piece of history being uncovered.”
The ice cream parlor apparently opened in 1984. It was listed in the Berkeley phone directory for the first time that year, according to Jef Findley, librarian at the Berkeley History Room at the Berkeley Public Library.
Also, “They (the owners) opened two sites, one in Berkeley and one at Fisherman’s Wharf [in San Francisco],” said Cesar Gallegos, archivist at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa.
“The store in Fisherman’s Wharf opened June 2, 1984,” and there were to be three more branches that would open within the next three months, Gallegos said. The only one he knows of that opened is the one in Berkeley.
The Snoopy Fan Club (of course there’s a Snoopy Fan Club) mentioned the upcoming ice cream parlors in its newsletter, Gallegos said. The store’s logo was created by Primo Angeli, who also designed the Boudin Bakery’s signage.
Longtime Berkeley resident Ira Serkes remembers the place, noting, “They uncovered the beautiful windows when they remodeled for Snoopy’s.”
To elaborate, the Snoopy’s chain took the building over in 1983 and renovated it, “exposing the original ornamental cornice and arched clerestory windows,” said architectural historian Daniella Thompson in an email.
According to information supplied by Thompson, it appears that Snoopy’s was carrying on a comestible tradition associated with the building that persists to this day. Snoopy’s took over the building from the oxymoronically named “Awful Fresh MacFarlane, the Scotch Candy Maker.”
(Thompson supplied the information, not the “oxymoronically named” sobriquet.)
The “Awful Fresh” candy store “operated here from 1937 until early 1983, and the … building is still widely known as the MacFarlane Building,” Thompson said.
As folks familiar with downtown can attest, the building has been home to at least three other establishments dedicated to edibles, El Sombrero Taqueria, Tikka Korner and Tandoori N Curry, in more modern incarnations.
While the building thus has outstanding foodie credentials, it actually was built in 1925 for the United Stores Realty Corp., a subsidiary of United Cigar Stores Co., Thompson said. United Cigar shut down in 1937 and Awful Fresh moved in, to be succeeded in turn by Snoopy’s, according to Thompson.
In hopes of hearing heartwarming, not to mention mouthwatering, tales of banana splits and hot fudge sundaes at Snoopy’s, Nosh contacted longstanding Berkeley personalities including Country Joe McDonald. Not only was McDonald a ’60s rockstar, his mother was the late Florence McDonald, a City Councilwoman and political rockstar in her own right.
Alas, it was not to be. “Sorry, I never heard of Snoopy’s,” McDonald said in an email. Still, it was way cool to get an email from a Berkeley legend. Other luminaries had no comment.
Serkes did say he had visited the place, but had no recollection of the wares therein.
Though it seems reasonable to assume Snoopy’s brought joy to gourmands young and old, given the intrinsic nature of ice cream and cookies, there appears to be no solid evidence — the place melted almost as quickly as an ice cream cone. Snoopy’s only existed for three years at the most, according to information unearthed by Findley.
“By 1987 at the latest, they were gone,” Findley said. “(Snoopy’s) disappeared from the phone book in 1986.”
Though nothing remains of Snoopy’s but the sign, perhaps the memories linger? Nosh invites readers who visited Snoopy’s to tell us about it in the comments section. We’re hungry for your feedback (if not a Snoopy’s chocolate chip cookie).
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