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Petaluma’s Three Twins Ice Cream Goes Out of Business

The company, best known for creative flavors like Lemon Cookie and Dad’s Cardamom, has served its last scoop.

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.

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24 thoughts on “Petaluma’s Three Twins Ice Cream Goes Out of Business

  1. Will miss you at Napa Oxbow!! Will miss my extra thick milkshakes.
    The food industry is a loser. Pretty much nobody in it will turn a profit.

  2. so sad, especially at a time like this when higher end grocery products are flying off the shelf, maybe they were not premium enough, Nancy Pelosi showed off her fridge full of $12 a pint Jeni’s ice cream

      1. I thought all you folks love capitalism. What happened to pull up your bootstraps and earn your money? Didnt realize shes not allowed to buy what she wants with what she has earned.

        1. Oh she has every right to buy whatever she wants. But it’s her hypocrisy that’s on full display when she spouts that “we”re all in this together” and that “she feels our pain.” She reminded me of John McCain when he couldn’t remember how many houses he had as he claimed to be “one of us.” And please spare us the “pull up your bootstraps and earn your money” BS when referring to queen Nancy. She’s never had to work hard her whole pathetic life.

          1. Check out the 5 most corrupt families of California only a few minutes on YouTube . All of it in plain sight.

  3. Small businesses like this are vulnerable, just like older people, and will be casualties. Whole Foods and Amazon will be fine. Small local businesses will be killed off.

  4. Despite all of our affection for the the product and we are sad to see any business slip beneath the waves, here is the real reason for the closure. This has been a long time coming. From a July 2019 piece in the NoBay Biz Times: “The lower cost of production space and milk led the company to buy a plant [in 2013] in America’s dairy land in [Sheboygan, Wisc]. Gottlieb said that although Three Twins has become an internationally recognized brand, sold in all 50 states and overseas, the company has never turned a profit since it launched in San Francisco in 2005. He explained that margins are tight in the food industry, especially for a company so focused on keeping prices low while still using high-quality ingredients. ‘We are striving to offer pints of organic ice cream in the $5 range,’ Gottlieb said. ‘High rents, production costs and competition make this a challenge in California…I was getting pressure from the board to shut the facility down a while back, and probably should have, but we love Petaluma so I was hoping to make it work…but the overhead was simply too high for our purposes.’ The facility in Wisc is 25,000 square feet, compared to the 4,200 square feet in Petaluma. ‘There are overhead costs that do not change even with the larger space, making it more economically viable.’

  5. I love their ice cream; I chose some of their bittersweet chocolate rather than a cake to celebrate my most recent birthday. I’m sorry to see them go out of business; Three Twins was the only ice cream that could tempt me to go off my diet.

  6. Well, if it saves just one person, it’s worth it. Sure, we lose that tax revenue, the owners and employees may be come homeless and hungry, but at least they saved someone.

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    1. Some business models do not upscale well, fresh made and sold products do not always package well for shelf life. This would have probably done better as an ice cream shop franchise. The few times (2?) that we purchased their products they ended up in the garbage after the first try, mostly a flavor/texture dislike. It is a sad loss for the employees.

    2. Yes for ice cream. Guess you still buy your ice cream at walmart. Those of us that like a good product and will pay for better treatment of animals and people will part with 5 bucks.

      1. Nope. I get mine from Safeway and Oliver’s, but thanks for showing your pretentiousness and arrogance. How do you see where you’re going with your nose so high in the air? Let me guess, you’re also one of those fools who pay $200 for jeans, right? Seems like not enough of your ilk were willing to “part with 5 bucks” to keep Three Twins afloat, huh? So much for being such a “good product,” huh?

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