NYC-based Van Leeuwen Ice Cream plans first two D.C. stores … – The Business Journals

A popular New York City-based ice cream chain is coming to D.C., with at least two new locations in the works, one in the Union Market area and the other in Adams Morgan.
Van Leeuwen Ice Cream’s entry into Greater Washington comes a little more than two-and-a-half years after the Brooklyn-based business retained D.C. brokerage Dochter & Alexander Retail Advisors for help in plotting a larger, national expansion. The company, which launched from a lone food truck in New York in 2008, has since branched out into other cities including Denver, Houston and Philadelphia.
It may have taken longer than some local Van Leeuwen fans might have anticipated given its work with a D.C. brokerage, as other expansion markets were announced sooner. It’s not that Van Leeuwen was less bullish on the District, as the chain received many requests via Instagram and email from New York transplants seeking a D.C. presence, said co-founder Laura O’Neill. But there were a lot of factors that went into the site selection process, and there was that one thing that happened since December 2019, she said.
“We’ve really been looking for the perfect locations in D.C., and, of course, we did have that little thing called the pandemic,” O’Neill said in an interview. “But we love D.C., and we’re very excited to be coming to the area.”
Among its first locations will be 416 Morse St. NE, in the Union Market area. It’s a former auto body shop that Edens previously acquired along with 1250-1258 Fifth St. NE, where Stephen Starr’s St. Anselm steakhouse is located. The character of the historic building, the potential for prominent building signage and outdoor seating, and notable draws to the area including the steakhouse were among the factors that appealed to Van Leeuwen. The 1,430-square-foot outpost is slated to open in January.
It’s yet another retail addition to Union Market area, which has seen a substantial amount of new development, particularly on the multifamily side. Also incoming to the area is a raft of other retail tenants including Minetta Tavern, Patis and Maman. Outgoing is Rappahannock Oyster Bar, a popular spot which did not have the option to renew its lease, as Washingtonian reported. It’s unclear what will take its place.
An Edens spokeswoman referred questions on the ice cream shop to Van Leeuwen.
“For us, it was about targeting influential trade areas, and Union Market is clearly a live-work-play part of D.C. that’s exploding with great co-tenancy, restaurants, and residents,” said Jason Kastner, managing director of Dochter & Alexander’s national advisory group, which represented Van Leeuwen. “When we think about some of the factors we believe drive success, having a successful restaurant next door is one of the components that led us to this transaction.”
The second location, still under lease negotiation, is at 2421 18th St. NW, the Adams Station complex owned by an affiliate of Hoffman & Associates, which also referred questions to the ice cream chain. That location is bigger, at 1,585 square feet, and is located along the 18th Street NW corridor that’s populated by a number of restaurants and bars.
Van Leeuwen boasts a wide selection of dairy and non-dairy ice creams that are both healthy and tasty, O’Neill said. Its products, with flavors including black cherry chip, raspberry layer cake and a limited edition Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, are also available for nationwide shipping and through local vendors including Yes! Organic and Foxtrot.
It’s entering a crowded marketplace filled with local and national competitors including Kilwins Chocolates & Ice Cream, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream, which recently opened a new location in Vienna. O’Neill said she believes Van Leeuwen will be able to stand out for the quality of its ingredients, regular and vegan ice cream flavors, and other options.
As for other locations in the area?
“We’ve got a few irons in the fire,” O’Neill said.
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