If you get a hankering for something sweet while you’re in downtown Walnut Creek, you won’t have far to walk.
There are two ice cream shops within blocks of each other on Main Street.
Across the street is a store that sells chocolate.
Nearby is a cupcake shop. And don’t forget about the family restaurant over on Locust that specializes in ice cream treats.
Not to mention See’s Candy in Broadway Plaza and other sweet shops scattered around the area.
All of them seem to be doing well even with patrons paying around $3 a pop for their treats.
The newest kid on the block is Cream of Walnut Creek, located in the middle of the Main Street mania.
Co-owners Mark Stites and Stephanie Marrone opened the shop in early August. It’s been a steady stream of customers since.
The shop sells ice cream on a cone and in a cup, but its speciality is letting customers choose between 10 varieties of soft, warm cookies and 16 flavors of ice cream to build their own ice cream sandwich. That’s 160 possible combinations.
The line is out the door and around the corner on most evenings as well as weekends. People take photos of what they’ve created and post them on social media sites, including the store’s Facebook page, which has more than 2,200 friends.
Stites said it’s not unusual for the place to have lines for seven straight hours. He assigns his employees to four-hour shifts because it’s too tiring to work at that pace for six to eight hours.
Stites says downtown Walnut Creek is the perfect atmosphere for an ice cream shop to thrive.
“People park their car. They get out and walk. They shop. They eat at restaurants,” he said. "Then, our job is to sell fun to them."
A block away, Deb Phillips has found similar success.
She opened Lottie’s Creamery, named after her grandmother, seven months ago to equally long lines. While the crush has faded a bit, Phillips said they are still busy.
Phillilps, who went to culinary school, takes pride in the fact her shop is a licensed pasteurization facility. That means they can legally make their ice cream from scratch.
“I have control over the flavors,” she noted.
They have a rotating menu of 14 different flavors, the most popular being the vanilla salted almond toffee.
Phillips agrees Walnut Creek is an ideal location to sell ice cream.
She said it’s warm during much of the year and the downtown layout makes it easy for people to stroll. There’s also lots of families.
“Ice cream is all about family,” she said.
Phillips adds the bustling restaurant scene helps, too.
“People can enjoy fine dining and then get themselves a treat afterward,” she said.
Not too far away is Kara's Cupcakes. They've been at their location for three years now.
Assistant Manager Allison Hoffman said business continues to thrive. They benefit from both customers who come in to buy one cupcake as an after-meal dessert to people who buy dozens for parties and meetings.
"We're a different kind of business and everybody loves cupcakes," she said.
The cupcakes' flavors range from banana to vanilla to coconut to raspberry to the ever-popular red velvet.
Hoffmann said their busiest times are noon to 3 p.m. on weekdays and weekend evenings after people have gone out to dinner or seen a movie.Across the street from Kara's is Leonidas Chocolates.
Anne Morgan and her husband, Scott, have sold Belgian chocolate on Main Street for 14 years.
Morgan said their niche is people who like European chocolate and are willing to pay a little extra for it.
"We're a little different than See's," she said. "We're not in competition with them. We're just different."
Business has been good here, too. Morgan thinks people like to buy treats from shops owned by local folks.
"I think a lot of people like that aspect," she said.
She added Main Street is "stroller city" with all the families that wander by.
Another business benefitting from the family dynamic is the San Francisco Creamery around the corner on Locust Street.
The restaurant has been open for 10 years, but they recently got a surge of new customers when they started selling ice cream sandwiches at their ice cream counter.
The set-up is much like Cream. Customers choose between five cookies and 36 ice cream flavors.
"It's been absolutely crazy," said Assistant Manager Mike Torres. "It's been much more popular than we expected."
Lunchtime during the week and weekend afternoons tend to be the busiest times.
The demand for sweets may not have reached its limit either.
The Sherry family is planning on opening The Candy Counter across the street from Cream by early December.
Meghan Sherry said they'll sell a variety of candy from candy bars to bulk candy to saltwater taffy to lollipops.
She said her family chose downtown Walnut Creek because they've lived here for the past 15 years.
"It has become our home and we felt that it was a perfect fit for us to open here," said Sherry. "We are very excited to bring something to Walnut Creek that hasn't been here for years."
They'll find out if there is room for one more in Walnut Creek's sweet spot.