By Jon Wolff
The following is from a recent conversation with Helmut Elmann, the proprietor of Charly Temmel, the local ice cream shop on 1313 Ocean Front Walk in Venice.
Jon Wolff: Tell me your name.
Helmut Elmann: My name is Helmut Elmann. I came to America in 1988 and, since then, I’m here.
JW: How long have you been operating Charly Temmel here in Venice?
HE: We’re operating now since 25 years. We opened up in 1994 and to today.
JW: And you’ve had a good relationship with the Venice Community for all that time.
HE: Yes, all the time. We started it. The people loved us. We have wonderful ice cream. We have the best ice cream. You know, it’s all natural ingredients. We never have any problem with the Community here.
JW: You have a lot of loyal customers probably. All of them come back?
HE: All of them, very very loyal. I remember people. I’m now 62 years old, you know. And I started it when I see these little kids… they were 5 years old, 6 years old. Now they come back, they’re 20 years old.
JW: Are they people from Venice or people from around the world?
HE: Venice and all over the world.
JW: And so, how did this happen next door? How did this catastrophe happen next door?
HE: Honestly, it just came over night, I guess. I heard it once that somebody wants to move in there. I didn’t know who. A week later, I got the information from the local people; they’re helping me. They said, “There is, I think, Ben & Jerry coming in.” So I say, “Okay, let me call the owner of the building.” I know the owner of the building. He owns also the Sidewalk Café. And I ask him, “Is this correct? I heard that Ben & Jerry is coming in.” First of all, he didn’t want to say it. He said, “It’s confidential. I cannot say it.” I said, “What? We know each other for many years. What’s wrong with you?” Then, ten minutes later, he calls me back and says, “Yeah, you’re right. Ben & Jerry is coming in.” I said, “Why’d you put the knife in the back? Why’d you stab me with the knife in the back?” He didn’t say anything. He couldn’t say anything.
JW: An ice cream store next door to an ice cream store. Well, you’re a local business. This Ben & Jerry’s is just a franchise of some corporation… some nationwide corporation.
HE: We don’t have any corporation. We are a local business here. We have one business here.
JW: Venice, traditionally, doesn’t have franchise corporate storefronts here on the Boardwalk.
HE: Never never. And we always say we never want to let them come in. When we start with Ben & Jerry… who’s next? The next is maybe McDonald’s or the Starbucks coffee. Or Coffee Bean… whatever.
JW: Venice has always been against this sort of thing. For this to happen now is an affront to the whole Spirit of Venice.
HE: I think the Spirit dies when they do that.
JW: It would if we let it happen.
HE: We cannot let it happen.
JW: The Venice Dogz have come out in support of you. And most locals are aware of what’s going on here.
HE: Please put this in the paper: I have to thank all the local people right now. They’re really behind me. They’re coming here. They’re supporting me. They’re telling me that they’re supporting me. And I absolutely appreciate that.
JW: You got it. And what would you like to see happen to Ben & Jerry’s? Just go set up in Santa Monica maybe? Or Marina del Rey?
HE: Yeah. Set up somewhere else. But not 10 feet next to an ice cream store. It’s something… what do you call it?… it’s disrespect. And why 10 feet next to me? Why couldn’t they go 200 feet down? We don’t want a corporation here. That should not be. They should get something else.
JW: It looks like Venice is on your side.
HE: And we’ll stay with Venice together. We should fight against this.
JW: You expect to be here a good number of years then.
JW: When Ben & Jerry’s has gone someplace else, maybe we can have something nice next door like a candle store or something.
HE: Or maybe a candy store. Who knows?
JW: Have any of the local politicians talked about any of this?
HE: Ruth Galanter. She’s in the Venice Community. She’s a supporter of mine. She’s a regular customer. She always says, “My God. What is going on here? Who let this happen?” I’ll tell you who let this happen; the people who own the buildings. They’re greedy. Because they think they don’t have enough already. They’re making already enough money. How much money can you make? Stop this greediness. We have to tell this to all the owners of the buildings. Because they want, every year, more and more and more. It’s crazy.
JW: The Spirit of Venice has outlasted things just like this. I’ll expect to see your business thriving here. And none of this corporatization of the Boardwalk is going to happen because Venice always stands up and always wins in the end.
HE: Because we have a strong Spirit.
JW: You’ve probably seen what’s going on with Snapchat. They’re falling apart right now because Venice fought back. A billion dollar corporation is getting kicked out of Venice right now.
HE: The Venice Spirit has to stay. The Venice Spirit is too strong.
JW: You’ll be here. I’ll be here.
HE: We’ll stay together.