BETHESDA, Md.– On a rainy Thursday afternoon, Rob Robbins and Shane Stanger are busy training the new recruits in their East Coast flagship store.
From teaching their new employees how to construct an ice cream sandwich to giving tips on customer service, the founders of The Baked Bear are dedicated to this new store of theirs, flying all the way from San Diego to help train the team in person.
The West Coast-based ice cream shop opened its first East Coast location on May 19, where Pike & Rose shoppers have been dropping in for cookie sandwiches.
Boasting original recipes, the store is known for sandwiching its ice cream between freshly baked cookies, brownies and doughnuts.
They’ve got over a dozen cookies and ice cream flavors to mix and match.
“We just make [flavors] up along the way,” said Stanger. “We bake from scratch so every single store has a bakery, butter, sugar, eggs all the way through- really high quality ingredients, super premium ice cream. Everything we do is focused on quality.”
Stanger started this ice cream shop with his childhood friend and co-founder Rob Robbins after the two of them both left their jobs in 2013 to pursue a sweeter passion, making good on a childhood pact to open a restaurant together.
“When we started baking cookies from scratch and pairing it with ice cream, it was just one of the small stores,” Stanger said of their first location in a San Diego strip mall. “Over time, it got really popular and lots of people started asking us if we would partner up with them.”
“It’s fun. It’s cool sharing successes with a friend, a lot of people think it’s hard to work with a friend but it’s actually easier if it’s the right partnership.”
The new Bethesda location is the first Baked Bear location on the East Coast. Still headquartered in San Diego, there are about 20 stores on the West Coast.
“We haven’t really expanded like crazy,” Stanger said. “We’ve been selective and just gone to good cities with good people. We met a group out here that we wanted to work with and kind of moved along that way. They really wanted to open this community.”
The store celebrated their grand opening by giving free shirts for the first 20 customers and free ice cream sandwiches for the first 300.
The first 100 customers also participated in a raffle in which the winner received 50 premade sandwiches for an event and monthly flavors for May and June were announced (Mexican Hot Chocolate and Reese’s Cup Cashew, respectively).
“We’ll do a couple [stores], but we try not to open too many new ones. We want them to be kind of special and local so if we did, it wouldn’t be too nearby,” said Stanger.
The Baked Bear is one of many new stores landing at Pike & Rose these days.
“Historically, this section of North Bethesda hasn’t had a gathering place,” said Emily Gagliardi, leasing director of Pike & Rose. “Federal [Realty] specializes in this creation of neighborhood– a creative place for people to gather together, shop and dine somewhere that feels genuinely theirs but uniquely like nowhere else they’ve been before.”
To create this mixed-use neighborhood, Federal Realty was “looking for what compliments what the neighborhood already has, what the community says it wants and to add things that people haven’t thought of before that will be the next trend.”
“We hope to add a uniqueness to the neighborhood and add things that people in this market haven’t experienced before. And certainly, West Coast food trends are ones that people get excited about,” said Gagliardi.
Apart from Baked Bear, Jinya Ramen, The Block, Nada and others are among the new businesses. L.L. Bean and Uniqlo also pan to come to Pike & Rose.
Pike & Rose is creating a summer project called The Beach, “a place to meet for lunch, play games and relax that will feature the Beach Bar and offer beach inspired cocktails, beer and wine, as well as light snacks.”
“Pike & Rose is located in the heart of Montgomery County so if we continue to grow and add more office and residential elements, it’ll evolve as the top choice for people to gather in the community,” explained Gagliardi. “For a carefully curated selection of restaurants, shops as well as events and activations that have created this neighborhood allowing people to get together, Pike & Rose offers an environment and experience that’s like nothing else.”