Cool and calculated

An American-born entrepreneur revives the classic neighborhood ice cream parlor

parlor311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Gabi Harow sat down with his wife and two children last year to discuss their future. The second-year business student worked as a mortgage consultant for a powerhouse national bank, but he feared that his job wasn’t enough to support the comfortable Jerusalem lifestyle he envisioned for his family.
So the young entrepreneurial family put their heads together and brainstormed. “What didn’t their Katamon neighborhood have?” they asked friends, neighbors and themselves.
Today, Harow’s kosher ice cream shop – a franchise of the Sorrento ice cream chain – is now in its third month of operation and is already a local fixture.
“There’s a pizza shop around the corner,” Harow says, explaining why ice cream was the best choice for this food-loving entrepreneur who has absolutely no background in the industry.
Harow found a vacated flower shop on Rehov Halamed Heh in the heart of the neighborhood and, joining up with the Sorrento franchise, designed his ice cream shop.
His first employee was an easy find: “I told my brother that if he needed a job, he had one,” Harow says.
The business model harks back to the classic American ice cream parlor catering to the neighborhood community.
He explains that new shops tend to open where foot traffic is highest – on downtown Ben-Yehuda, for instance – and no longer serve as the community cornerstone of days gone by.
Soda doesn’t come a dime a pop at this shop, but Harow has clearly made his mark on the families and children in the neighborhood, with inexpensive ice cream (NIS 9.50 per 100 grams, or one scoop) and a community-oriented approach.
On a busy Monday afternoon, a 12-year-old boy skips in with his mother behind him. He has been away at summer camp, and Sorrento is a prime destination upon his return home. He gives Harow a warm greeting before requesting the usual – a lemon iced drink.
Harow’s shop is the culmination of a grassroots project that has tapped into family members and Harow’s American family roots.
Born in Los Angeles, Harow and his family made aliya in 1986, when he was three years old. But regular summer stays back in the States have kept the ice cream icon alive in him. For a model, he says he still looks to Baskin-Robbins, the massive ice cream chain that grew out of the merger of two California mom and pop shops in 1953.
“31 flavors!” he chants, quoting the chain’s slogan that refers to its original 31 ice-cream flavors.
The Katamon Sorrento has a homegrown motto of its own: “Happy Happens.”
Heading into the winter season, Harow has already covered his overhead while planning creative additions to combat the slow ice cream sales in the colder months. The shop offers WiFi and will start selling bagels later this month.
For Harow, who graduates from Lander Institute’s School of Business Administration next year, ice cream may be only the beginning of an entrepreneurial life ahead.
But it’s a good start.
“It can’t be bad when you’re around ice cream all day. People come for an ice cream in a good mood,” he says. “When you’re getting a mortgage, the opposite is true.”