Petaluma’s Three Twins Ice Cream, which grew over 15 years from a single ice cream shop to a $15 million company with pints at supermarkets nationwide, has served its last scoop, its founder announced Friday.
In an emotional Facebook post, founder and CEO Neal Gottlieb said the company’s business model — high quality organic ice cream sold in grocery stores for $5 a pint — had become financially unsustainable. His efforts to shore up the business by securing outside investment were sunk by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, he said.
“We’ve been in financial trouble for years,” he said by phone, his voice catching.
“The grocery business proved to be brutal. We were always working towards a scale where we could have sustained profitability, but in more recent years we saw the business contract and margins get squeezed further,” Gottlieb said in the Facebook post.
Gottlieb was always more than the founder of Three Twins, which started in 2005 as a scoop shop in San Rafael before Gottlieb opened an office and factory in Petaluma in 2010. With rings of long brown curls, an eternal smile and contagious enthusiasm for sweet treats, he was also its lovable mascot.
His always sunny disposition cracked after Friday’s announcement.
Gottlieb said he knew the closure was coming for more than a month, giving him time to mourn and process the loss. About 15 employees were let go, he said. The Petaluma headquarters and a factory in Wisconsin where the company consolidated all production last summer shuttered. But heart-felt responses to his announcement reopened the wounds.
“When you put it out there to everyone,” he paused, struggling to talk through tears. “I’m sorry this is harder than I thought it would be.”
Fans who have come to love Three Twins, best known for its creative flavors like Lemon Cookie and Dad’s Cardamom, reacted immediately to Gottlieb’s emotional farewell.
“No matter where we lived in the country we were always able to find a little piece of our hometown of Petaluma while eating @threetwinsicecream. Nothing will ever compare!” said Natalie Ulyatt. Hundreds expressed similar sentiments.
“I do think Lemon Cookie is the flavor everyone’s going to mourn the most. I was so proud of what we did. It brought people so much joy,” he said.
For now, Gottlieb said he’s just grateful for the experience of running the company for just over 15 years and plans to look for a new job in the tech industry.
The outdoorsman who was a contestant on the reality TV show “Survivor” in 2016 is also planning a return trip to Nepal.
“It’s funny, I spent a month trekking there in 2002, and I dreamed that when I sold the company, I would go back. I guess that didn’t happen, but I do have lots of frequent flier miles I saved from work to get me there someday,” he said.