Fentons Creamery

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Coordinates: 37°49′41″N 122°15′0″W / 37.82806°N 122.25000°W / 37.82806; -122.25000

Fentons Creamery
Fentons Creamery in Oakland.jpg
Oakland Fentons Creamery in 2006
Restaurant information
Food typeIce cream, sandwiches, hamburgers, and salads
Street address4226 Piedmont Avenue
CountyAlameda County
Postal/ZIP Code94611
CountryUnited States
Other locationsVacaville, California
Oakland International Airport

Fentons Creamery is a historic ice cream parlor and restaurant located on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, California, United States.

It opened in 1894[1] on the corner of 41st and Howe streets before moving to its present location in 1961, a few blocks away.[2] Fentons was then destroyed by an arson fire in 2001.[2] The arsonists claimed the owner of Fentons encouraged them to start the fire.[3] Over $2 million[2] was spent to rebuild it with a grill, more tables, and an expanded menu.[4]

Fentons was featured in the 2009 animated film Up. Director Pete Docter, producer Jonas Rivera, and other Pixar employees are regular customers to Fentons. Docter said that they decided to include it in their movie after the original script had the ice cream parlor named after a different place on the East Coast.[5]

The ice cream parlor also claims to be the original birthplace of rocky road ice cream.[6] Fentons candy maker George Farren made a rocky road candy bar and decided to blend it into an ice cream flavor. This inspired his friends William Dreyer and Joseph Edy of Dreyer's to start making their own version, but substituting almonds for walnuts.[6] However, Dreyer's still continues to market its product as "The Original Rocky Road".[7]

A second location opened in 2007 in Vacaville, California,[5] as well as a shop in the food court of the Oakland International Airport.

2001 fire and reconstruction[edit]

Fentons workers routinely pressure washed out the kitchen and floors into the parking lot and down the storm drains into Glen Echo Creek. But late on the night of November 21, 2001, while driving home after 1:00 a.m., former Israeli paratrooper Paul Berman and his wife noticed suspicious activity in the Fentons parking lot. Employees were loading the jukebox and three gelato machines, along with $5,000 in cash, into a U-Haul truck. Berman called the police, who thought everything was normal, but upon coming back to the scene a few minutes later, saw the Creamery had been torched. The interior suffered extensive fire and smoke damage before being extinguished and the three employees involved were arrested on the spot. The day and night supervisors (Fernando Menses and Martha Pena, both 19) confessed to the arson and robbery, and went to prison, and the employee who was a 16-year-old minor served two months in juvenile hall.[citation needed]

Defense attorneys claim that their clients were encouraged by Fentons owner Scott Whidden to set the arson fire. Whidden claimed the employees set the fire because they were upset that promised bonuses were not paid, blaming 9/11 for a 25% drop in sales. Former Fentons manager Cynthia Van der Heyden found it hard to believe that the teens, who were model employees, would have thought of burning the Creamery on their own. At the time of the fire, Fentons had been in major disrepair for years, Whidden had enormous financial difficulties on all fronts and had no money to renovate the crumbling Creamery. Attorneys for the teen employees alleged that the young people viewed Whidden as a father figure; that he told them the insurance company would repair everything, and employees would continue to be paid during the renovations following the fire. During the subsequent investigation into the arson and robbery, police and fire officials never knew about Whidden’s financial woes or his past felony drug conviction for “selling chemicals used to make methamphetamine,” his $322,000 fine for the felony, or the deplorable conditions of Fentons before the fire. The whereabouts of Whidden at the time of the fire was never ascertained and although the teens admitted to the robbery and being ‘involved’ in the arson, none of them admitted to starting the fire. The fire started in the upstairs office, in business papers which had been spread on the floor. When the teens were arrested, police officer Stephen Mitchell stated “I didn’t think they knew the building was on fire.” [8]

Fentons Creamery was closed for 19 months amid wide-spread media coverage and a swirl of community support and neighborhood rumors. Whidden received $1.5 million from the insurance policy and the building’s landlord $1.35 million, along with $800,000 in ‘gifts and loans’ from the community, which paid for the complete renovation of Fentons. When it was learned that the Creamery was in severe debt, suspicion turned to Whidden, who denied having anything to do with the fire. In a strange turn, Scott Whidden’s psychologist wrote that he suffered from PTSD due to the drawn-out rehab of the building.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "Fentons Creamery Family History". Fentons Creamery. Archived from the original on 2009-06-06. Retrieved 2014-07-21.
  2. ^ a b c Cooper, Tony (February 28, 2003). "Fentons Creamery nears the end of a rocky road". sfgate.com. Retrieved 2009-12-23.
  3. ^ Henry K. Lee (2003-04-19). "2-year sentences in Fentons arson case / 2-year prison terms in Fentons arson case / Pair also must pay creamery $3 million". SFGate. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  4. ^ Wandell, Deb (May 15, 2008). "Fenton's Creamery". sfgate.com. Retrieved 2009-12-23.
  5. ^ a b Hartlaub, Peter (May 27, 2009). "Oakland's Fentons Creamery in Pixar film 'Up'". sfgate.com. Retrieved 2009-12-23.
  6. ^ a b "Fentons Blender Club: Rocky Road Ice Cream". Archived from the original on 2009-07-09. Retrieved 2014-01-19.
  7. ^ "Dreyer's Ice Cream - Grand: Rocky Road". Retrieved 2014-01-19.
  8. ^ http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/fire-and-ice-cream/Content?oid=1075299

External links[edit]