Looks like Bad Walter’s Bootleg Ice Cream is going legit. After its start in the pandemic as a pop-up out of owner Sydney Arkin’s home kitchen — hence the “bootleg” part of the business name — Bad Walter’s is set to move into a permanent Rockridge storefront, the former Smitten Ice Cream location at 5800 College Avenue in Oakland. But when Arkin began her ice cream pop-up in 2020, a storefront wasn’t on her mind. “When I first started Bad Walter’s, it was an illegal ice cream operation out of my living room,” Arkin says. “I wasn’t thinking past what comes next week.”
That’s all changed with the new shop, which Arkin is set to open in 2024. She’s asking customers to help propel Bad Walter’s through its next steps via a campaign at SMBX, which allows small business owners to collect bonds from the public and function them as microloans. The space will need a full remodel to change it over from Smitten Ice Cream; to help with that, Arkin tapped designer Sa’id Eghbal, who’s worked on Oakland’s Low Bar and Northlight, as well as Rich Table and Del Popolo in San Francisco. It’s a dream space for Arkin, who has fond memories of the Rockridge neighborhood from childhood visits to College Avenue and the next-door See’s Candies shop; the storefront itself comes with the exact features Arkin was looking for.
“When I was looking for a space I wanted someplace that had big windows so you’d be able to see what kind of goes on behind the scenes,” Arkin says. “I think that ice cream is a food that everybody knows, everybody loves, and very few people know how it’s made — and so I think taking that demystification process out was really exciting.”
Beyond the construction (and permitting) process of opening up an ice cream shop, Arkin already has plans in place for the main attraction. Arkin is planning for Bad Walter’s to have three to four permanent flavors, along with three to four weekly rotating flavors. “The good news is that because we’ll have more flavors available on a weekly basis,” Arkin says. “It means that a lot of the flavors everybody’s always requesting will be back more often, whether or not they’re a permanent flavor.” Fan favorites such as the Sucker Punch, a sour lemon ice cream with lemon curd and shortbread cookie crunch, or the MF’in Monster with cookie frozen custard, sugar cookie dough, and Oreos, will certainly make appearances, and Arkin says she’s willing to take suggestions on what flavors to bring back and rotate onto the menu.
As for new offerings, Arkin plans to make homemade cones for the shop. She will also serve affogatos and what she’s calling “chocogatos” — a hot chocolate version of the traditionally espresso-based affogato. Ice cream will still be available by the pint, as well. It’s the start of a sweet little shop, and Arkin says she can’t imagine anywhere else she would open it: she lives in the neighborhood, it’s where she grew her business, and she’s excited about Oakland’s food scene gaining more national attention. “I really love being here,” Arkin says. “I’m [growing] a new food business and I thought that being part of the boom in Oakland was great for me and Bad Walter’s.”
Bad Walter’s Bootleg Ice Cream (5800 College Avenue, Oakland) is set to debut in 2024.