Can an Austrian immigrant’s small independent boardwalk ice cream shop of 24 years survive a Ben & Jerry’s opening right next door?

By Jonathan Legg

Charly Temmel exudes simple, old-school charm
Photo by Zach Vincent

Editor’s Note: Jonathan Legg is a producer who lives in Venice. This story originated as a YouTube video titled “Rocky Road: Venice Beach’s Ice Cream Showdown,” hosted by Legg and filmed by Venice-based cameraman Zach Vincent.

Venice is a classic Southern California destination. It’s rapidly changing, but there are still some old-school gems around. One of my favorites is Charly Temmel, a humble ice cream shop on the Venice Boardwalk that’s been around for 24 years.

Its friendly owner, the colorful Austrian immigrant Helmut Elmann, calls Venice “the dreamland” — the perfect place for an ice cream parlor.

“It’s not a secret: If you use the best ingredients, you have the best ice cream,” he says. “My great, great grandfather started with the ice cream. At that time they had only white and black — vanilla and chocolate.”

Now Elmann serves two-dozen rich flavors (I can vouch for chocolate fudge walnut) — and for surprisingly cheap, considering the ocean view. A generous scoop of ice cream sandwiched between two fresh cookies served hot will only set you back $3, about half what you’d pay at a popular food truck.

I ask if Elmann’s ever served another Austrian who made his name on Venice Beach.

“Arnold Schwarzenegger — he loves the ice cream,” Elman, who years ago worked at the actor and bodybuilder’s former restaurant venture Schatzi on Main Street, says with a laugh. “He comes here. He loves the ice cream. … When he was governor, I had to cook for him. I had to make a special dessert: kaiserschmarrn — ‘the emperor’s dessert,’” (a shredded sweet-batter pancake served with powdered sugar and fruit sauces).

But now this Venice landmark is under attack by the most unlikely of antagonists: Ben & Jerry’s.

Newly opened.

Directly. Next. Door.

“Honestly, I cannot even speak. It’s such a surprise for me that they put next to me another ice cream store. And not only another ice cream store, an ice cream store with a name,” says Elmann.

“The community in Venice says we never want to bring any big corporation in here — now look at this!” he continues. “I don’t know who’s next. Maybe McDonald’s. Maybe Starbucks. Who knows? But this is not right, that they put them next to me.”

So I’m issuing a call to action for all Venice Beach locals: If you are a local, do what locals do and support local businesses. And Ben and Jerry, your central mission says you have deep respect for individuals in and outside the company and support the communities of which they are a part. I’m asking you to be true to your company’s mission statement and to your best self. Please find a solution so both you and this local business can thrive.

Venice is all about being weird. Being eccentric. Being different.

If corporations push small businesses out of this neighborhood, that spirit could be gone forever.

But we have the purchasing power of consumers. Where we spend our dollars will determine the future of Venice Beach. Next time you’re at the beach, have an ice cream at Charly Temmel.

Charly Temmel 1313 Ocean Front Walk, Venice