On Jan. 31, Chris Leahy will lock the doors of Mission City Creamery for the last time. Leahy, 55, who has run the ice cream shop at 2905 Park Ave. near Santa Clara University for the past five years, has made the gut-wrenching decision to close the doors and sell his business.
The parlor, which has tantalized the taste buds of Santa Clarans with homemade ice cream, ice cream sandwiches with the cookies made from Wilson’s Bakery recipes and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, often had a line stretching out the front door, and Leahy said ending its successful run was not a decision he took lightly.
“I’m heartsick because I love this community,” said Leahy, who credits a large portion of his success to Kenny Wilson of Wilson’s Bakery who has been helping him with operations since the beginning. “I’ve had a couple of curveballs thrown my way in my personal life the past two years … I made a good go, but personal circumstances have changed what I can do, and I need to look for my next opportunity.”
For Leahy, that means moving across the country to his hometown of Cape Cod, Massachusetts and being near his extended family. And, although Santa Clarans will miss seeing Leahy operating the Mission City Creamery grill, scooping ice cream or sitting on a diner stool chatting with customers, the local community will be losing one of its biggest supporters. Over the years, Leahy has donated ice cream for everything from the annual police poker tournament to local schools and the Santa Clara Senior Center.
“For me, and growing up on Cape Cod where it’s all small businesses, doing business to me was always being part of the community—was being a member, being somebody who contributes,” he said. And, while Mission City Creamery will be no more, Leahy will never stop making the sweet treat. In the 16 years prior to opening the shop, Leahy hosted an annual ice cream social at his home and says he will be taking one of the ice cream machines, a fluorescent sign next to the cash register and a ticket from when competitive eater Joey Chestnut visited with him as he begins the next segment of his life.
“The small machine is going with me,” he said. “That wasn’t part of the sale. That was mine before I got here.”
The responses to the message posted on Facebook announcing Mission City Creamery’s closure have been overwhelming, and while Leahy has read and appreciated the impact he has made on the community, it hasn’t made his decision sell any easier.
“There have been three couples who got engaged here,” he said. “Two of the three met here and two of the three actually had their engagement photos here … I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to create a place that people would come and hang out and just be—students, kids. It’s the kids I’m going to miss the most. It’s the kids. It’s the parents … [and the response] has been completely overwhelming—that people understand and realize what it’s all about; I get teary.”
Leahy said the new owner currently runs a food truck along the Peninsula. She will be rebranding the location to fit her Rocko’s Ice Cream Tacos concept and plans to open in April. There’s still time, however, to grab one last scoop of Leahy’s ice cream before it’s gone. Mission City Creamery will remain open daily, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., until the end of the month.
“It has been fun,” he said. “It has been a good experience. Hard work, lots of hours, lots of missed things along the way, but I will never regret it.”