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Monday, December 22, 2014

Ice cream shop has pop roots

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By Sergio Jimenez / New Mexico Daily Lobo

A young customer plays Galaga, one of many arcade games customers can play at I Scream Ice Cream. Owner Bill Warren opened the shop to give children a place to play freely with all the toys he has collected, while their parents can hang out and talk.

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I Scream Ice Cream
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A little boy ran into I Scream Ice Cream on Monday with a wide, toothless smile, looking for the owner.

“Mister Bill! I got a new haircut, did you see?” he said. “Can I have a hot dog?”

Affectionately called Mr. Bill, owner Bill Warren smiled and went behind the counter to serve his young customer.

Warren once played drums with the 1910 Fruitgum Company, a ’60s “bubble gum” band that doled out sticky-sweet pop for the masses, even topping the charts a few times. Now, he serves up scoops of ice cream to children and their families, who know him as “Mr. Bill,” at his shop, I Scream Ice Cream.

Warren’s career in the music business is apparent in the decor of his shop, which features record-lined walls and posters signed by famous musicians. He also has a stereo system that blasts classic rock all day long. Warren said that he even has some very famous regulars.

“I know one of the road managers for Mötley Crüe, so they stop by any time they’re in town,” he said.

Warren also sees his fair share of regular folk, from kids who come in after school with their parents to visitors from out of town looking for a fun, local venue. He said that during the seven years he’s been in business, he’s been able to build a loyal customer base that spreads the word about the shop. And by breaking the mold set by big ice cream companies such as Baskin-Robbins or Cold Stone Creamery, he said he’s able to offer customers an experience they can only have in Albuquerque.

“You can’t find me in Pittsburgh, you can’t find me in Philly or Phoenix or somewhere else,” he said. “When guests come from out of town to visit friends or family, they bring them here because this is kind of unique.”

Warren said that making the store kid-friendly was his priority.

The store features old video games such as Ms. Pac-Man, as well as dress-up clothes, children’s books, a play area and all manner of toys. He said he wanted to create a place where kids can play and interact with each other so parents get a break.

“I’ve got moms that come in because the kids are driving them nuts, and the mom can sit here and veg for a little bit and the kid can go and play,” he said.

Parent and regular customer Evan Reddy said she often brings her son to the store for just that reason.

“There’s really no place to take the kids to play while you chat with friends and can still keep an eye on them,” she said.

Warren also uses the store as a way to reach out and connect with the community. He works with Bernalillo County and Cliff’s Amusement Park to give foster children free birthday parties.

“It’s tough being a foster kid, I would think,” he said. “I wanted to give them something to make their lives a little easier.”

He also said many of his part-time employees were once children who came and played in his store.

“I have a girl who wanted to work here since she was 10,” he said. “And when she turned 15, she turned in the app.”