When UCSC graduate Dave Kumec lived in Paris he used to see long lines outside the store that sold Berthillon ice cream.
"It could be the middle of winter and freezing rain, but there would still be a line out the door and down the block," he recalls. "The first time I tasted it, I knew why. That was my inspiration for making ice cream, to capture that kind of quality."
For the second time Kumec is bringing his flavors to a downtown storefront, this time at 1101 B Pacific Ave., between Taqueria Vallarta and a soon-to-be opened bubble tea shop.
His first shop in the Culinary Center on Front Street closed after five months when the owners of the building sold it. It's taken 10 months of work to open his new shop, which is also an ice-cream making plant that makes enough to supply groceries such as New Leaf Community Markets, Draegers Whole Foods, including the San Francisco store, which buys 100 cases a month of his salted caramel flavor.
Kumec, who graduated with degrees in Business and French History, has worked as a chef at the Sonoma Mission Inn and EuroDisney and in high tech for John Scully and Philippe Kahn at Live Picture and LightSurf.
He also studied ice cream making in New York under Malcolm Stogo at the appropriately-named Ice Cream University. His formula is to use fresh organic dairy products from Straus Family Creamery and mix them with fruits bought at the Farmer's Market.
He doesn't go for the exotica of the Penny Ice Creamery, which opened six months after his first store and has gone on to big success with a second location in a Pacific Avenue kiosk. Its owners were invited to the Barack Obama's state of the union because they used money from a federal loan to start the small business.
"I don't make celery and raisin ice cream," he says. "That's a creative endeavor, but it's not what I'm about. I'm about making ice cream with the best flavor and the best texture."
He has 16 flavors that would be more familiar to traditionalists, including dark chocolate, vanilla bean, orange creamsicle, nectarine and strawberry.
"But I don't put pink peppercorns in my strawberry," he says.
His shop opened Saturday, but the furnishings aren't all there yet. He plans a big celebration Oct. 5 with money being donated to children's charities.
He says he'd make ice cream for free, he enjoys doing it so much, but he's lucky he can do it for a living.
His most popular flavor is the salted caramel, which has taken off lately. His nectarine and banana defy the traditional standard for fruit inside. They are ripe and bursting with flavor.
His mint with chocolate flair is explosively good.
He's part of a Santa Cruz ice cream renaissance, with five local companies making gourmet flavors. Marianne's, Polar Bear, Kelly's French Bakery and the Penny Creamery are doing for Santa Cruz what wine has done for Napa.
Ice cream aficionado Mayor Don Lane threw an ice cream social for city hall employees in August with all five companies represented. Here's a video of Lane talking about it.
Kumec praised the city's recent success getting the Warriors' D-League team here, thinking it will prop up business in a slow time.
"You don't want to see empty storefronts," he says. "This should help."
His advice for fellow entrepreneurs, especially those who don't want to follow his mistake-ridden 10 month journey to opening?
"Go to the Cabrillo Small Business Development Center," he says. "Make sure you get good contracts for everything you do. They will help you."