The Bead N Crystal
Gunther's Ice Cream
2801 Franklin Boulevard Sacramento, CA 95818
For Rick and Marlena Klopp, ice cream making is more than a mere hobby or a job that pays the bills; it’s the essence of their livelihood and central to their legacy. Rick has been working at Gunther’s Ice Cream since he was 22 years old. Although Rick initially took the job at Gunther’s for part-time work, he soon developed a deep love for the ice cream making process. He actually met his wife Marlena at Gunther’s, when she started working there as a young adult. Since then, he and Marlena have continued the Gunther tradition of working earnestly to make rich, quality ice cream and provide exceptional customer service.
Gunther’s Ice Cream is an old-fashioned business that rekindles the memories of a post-war Golden Age. The original owners, Herman “Pop” Gunther and his wife Iva, started the brand in April of 1940. Because of the fallback of World War II, sugar and butterfat were strictly rationed, and Gunther’s was only allowed 80% of its monthly supplies. Pop continued to stick with the Gunther promise of quality, even if that meant they could only stay open 14 days a month. After the war, they decided to expand their store into where it is now, unveiling in December of 1949 on Franklin Boulevard. After Mr. Gunther passed away in 1963, the store was sold to a man named Carl Buchell. Rick was employed six years later, and in 1974, Rick bought the business himself.
The store is jam-packed with nostalgia and Rick and Marlena intend to keep it that way; from the animated neon Jugglin’ Joe to the futurist Googie architecture, it’s obvious to anyone just how long Gunther’s has been in business. Rick believes that keeping everything the way it’s been since the beginning is the best way to go. They still have some of the original ice cream-making machinery! While their slow-churn method may increase production time compared to the latest technology, Rick says it enhances the quality of their decadent ice cream.
Using a batch freezer and whip cream, their machine churns out 60 gallons an hour. What makes the quality special however, is the 16% butterfat cream, compared to only 10% in ordinary brands. They also house some unique flavors like Thai Tea, Black Licorice, Pecan Pralines, Black Raspberry Marble, Swiss Orange Chip, Maple Nut, and more! Gunther’s has been a steady presence in the Sacramento area for 81 years now — so it’s obvious that they’re doing something right!
One could argue that Gunther’s Ice Cream has only become more popular over the years. For younger audiences, you might have noticed Gunther’s in the Oscar-nominated film Ladybird, starring Saiorse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet. As the coming-of-age movie set the stage in our very own Sacramento, Gunther’s Ice Cream made a dazzling cameo! As for commercial success, Gunther’s sells its ice cream in over a hundred local stores, not to mention its #1 spot on Business Insider’s “Best Ice Cream in California.” Regardless of its accolades, Gunther’s has sworn to keep its legacy just as Pop intended. For its long-standing, the shop was awarded a plaque that recognized it as a historical landmark in 2020.
It’s associated with thousands of great memories for many people — just check out a few of the visitors’ photos on their Instagram! The cycle has only continued as the neighborhood has branched out, older generations returning with their kids, who grow up and bring their own children. Marlena added that “people meet their neighbors here at Gunther’s and some kids even have their first bites of ice cream.” Despite the large crowds, the employees take the time to get to know all their customers and the store has a cheery atmosphere. That’s why Rick has refused offers to turn Gunther’s into a chain. He knew that if he and Marlena were to franchise, it would downgrade the quality. Having worked at Gunther’s Ice Cream for the past few decades, Rick and Marlena can’t imagine themselves retiring.
On a personal note from Rick and Marlena; we asked them for their favorite flavors and toppings — something you can try out when you visit their store! Rick enjoys Vanilla and Rocky Road ice cream with any toppings, particularly hot fudge. Marlena on the other hand recommends Butter Brickle, because as she said, she tried it once and has never been able to get over the exquisite taste (however, Salted Caramel with fresh strawberries has been a strong contender as well!). Besides ice cream, you can try some of their custom Fruit Freeze’s (which also comes with a half-ice cream, half-freeze option), sandwiches, cakes, pies, milkshakes, and more!
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, Gunther’s has had to shorten their hours from 10am-10pm to 11am-8pm. In addition, they’re unable to have people come in, so they’ve implemented DoorDash and online ordering. Sales have dropped by twenty-five percent, but they know they can weather the storm: “This shop made it through World War II so we’ll make it through corona as well.” Rick and Marlena suggest that support from the local area would be appreciated. So go on, treat yourself to some amazing ice cream, and give this wonderful business the love and respect it deserves!